It’s one of Western Civilization’s best-known stories. For two thousand years it has been told and retold, preached and sung about. You know the locale—a manger in Bethlehem. You know the cast of characters—Mary and Joseph, the angels and shepherds, the wise men and King Herod. You may know plot details—the census, the long journey, the overcrowded inn.
This Advent we will walk the journey through the Holy Land and retrace the steps of those involved, all in an effort to come to a deeper understanding of what the Christmas story teaches us about Jesus Christ and about God’s will for our lives. (Adapted from The Journey, pp. 14-15)
Advent means “coming,” and in this season we prepare for the coming of Christ. One of the ways we prepare for his coming is by making an Advent wreath and lighting its candles to remind us of the gifts Christ brings to the world.
The Advent wreath includes many symbols to help us think about Christ and His gifts. The wreath itself is in the shape of a circle. A circle has no beginning and no end. This reminds us that there is no beginning and no end to God and that God’s love and caring are forever.
When the village founders named their village Nazareth which means “branch” or “shoot”, they may have chosen this name as a way of expressing hope that God would once again restore Israel.
Isaiah 11:1-2 says:
But on this humbled ground, a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising,
will sprout from Jesse’s stump;
A branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will rest.
(Isaiah 11:1-2, The Voice)
They may have chosen this name because, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, it was a sign that there are no hopeless causes with God. They may have chosen this name as a way of articulating their hope that one day the Messiah would come to Israel.
It was as if they were saying, “We believe there is always hope. We believe God will deliver us. We believe the day will come when God will send a new king who will deliver us.”
Little did they know that the branch foretold in Isaiah would be a child who would grow up in their own village and would be the Savior of the world.
“Thank you, God, for the hope you give us. We ask that as we wait for all your promises to come true, and for Christ to come again, that you would remain present with us. Help us today and every day to worship You, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your hope with each other. We ask it in the name of the One who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.”
(From The Journey, pp. 19-20)
When has it been easy to worship Jesus?
When has it been difficult to worship Jesus?
What does it mean to you to be ‘delivered’?