By Jenny Fulton
Advent – a time of expectant waiting as we look forward to the day when we will celebrate the birth of Christ.
But what are we celebrating? Why are we celebrating?
On the first week of Advent we light the candle of Hope.
What is this hope?
To answer this question, let’s go back to the book of Exodus in the Bible. Now, many people are familiar with the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20. But what we don’t notice is the verses that precede and follow those commands.
Exodus 19:18-25 describes God’s ascent onto Mount Sinai just before He gives the 10 Commandments.
“Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. “Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, or else the Lord will break out against them.” Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.’ ” Then the Lord said to him, “Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, or He will break forth upon them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them.”
Can you imagine the sight of that mountain?
In the midst of this brilliant display of power, God gives them 10 principles to live by. At the conclusion of His brief teaching, Exodus 20:18-21 reads,
“All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.”
Did you catch the people’s response to God’s presense?
God came down to speak to the people Himself. He desired a relationship with them, but they were too scared to be in His presence. They would rather talk to and obey someone who had a relationship with God than interact with God Himself.
So what did God do?
He honored their wishes, for the time, and set up a system of worship, of interactions with priests, and the offering of sacrifices.
Then, when the time was right, God sent His Son to earth as a human who could again offer and provide that direct connection and relationship to Himself.
In a children’s lesson I did a few years ago, I described the relationship with God before Jesus’ birth as two pen pals who could only write letters to one another. When Jesus was born, it was like the pen pal came not only to visit his friend, but to live with him forever.
With the birth of Jesus the baby, the death of Jesus the Christ, the resurrection of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, and through the giving of the Holy Spirit, God made a way for people to always be with Him.
The Hope we have at Christmas is the knowledge that God is always with us.
God is with us when we’re lonely.
-when we’re scared,
-when we’re hurting,
-when we disobey,
-when He disciplines us,
-when we’re happy.
When Jesus was born, God came down to live with His people on earth.
When Jesus died and was resurrected, God made a way for His people to live with Him forever.
When the Holy Spirit came, God enabled people to live with Him on earth while also preparing to live with Him in eternity.
The almighty God desires a relationship with us. He came to earth to be with us. He is always with us.
This is our Hope. This is why we celebrate.