Advent Reflection: 6th December - William Philip

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Every day in Advent 2016 we will be sharing short reflections from authors, Christian charities and Eden team members.

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The Message of Christmas is one of unadulterated joy, 'the joy of heaven to earth come down’ to bring joy in the lives of all who receive the good news of the Saviour, Christ the Lord.  

That joy finds its way into song in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel.

The joy expressed by the pregnant Elizabeth, and the unborn John, in that first encounter with Mary as she carried the newly-conceived Jesus is probably best described as the joy of sheer miracle; the unexplainable mystery of the life of God himself bursting into the life of human beings, leaving them reeling. There is often something of that when someone is suddenly converted to Christ; their eyes are opened, everything is different, but as yet they may not be able to fully articulate what has happened to them, though they know for certain that it is very real.

In her song, ‘the Magnificat’, Mary expresses the joy of the humble, ordinary person who has come to understand at last the meaning of life – that everything in time and eternity is God’s story, AND that – wonderfully – in the coming of Jesus Christ, ‘he who is mighty has done great things for me’. It’s the joy of discovering your own story is not just insignificant and valueless, but that it has a place in God’s own everlasting story.

For Zechariah, the priest struck dumb and helpless because of his unbelief and resistance to the good news from God brought to him by the angel, his song is full of "The joyful news of sins forgiven, of hell subdued, and peace with Heaven” (as Isaac Watts put it so wonderfully). His is the joy of one who has been forced to come face to face with his bondage to sin, but has found 'the tender mercy of our God' in Jesus Christ, bringing 'the knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of …sins’; there is no greater joy than that!

The angels’ message of Glory to God and peace on earth tells of the joy of heaven itself that at last, this recalcitrant, rebellious planet will be brought to ultimate peace. Yet only through the extraordinary reconciling work of the Son of God come to bring peace, through his own blood shed on the cross, at infinite cost to himself. As the apostle Peter seems to indicate (1 Pet 1:12) even the angels in heaven struggle to comprehend the wonder of it all; yet their joyful telling forth of the Saviour’s coming reminds us, as Jesus himself does, that at the heart of the gospel story is a God who is rejoicing, and  ‘there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents’ (Luke 15:7)

Finally, the joy we find expressed by Simeon and Anna is the painful joy of the cross which stands between the cradle and the crown, for the Lord Jesus, and indeed for all who will follow him. It reminds us that while we walk this earth, even amid the greatest joy there is in this world, which is experienced in knowing Jesus the Saviour, the shadow of the cross will not lift from our lives, if we are truly his, until the day he comes to swallow up death forever. And even then, John’s vision in Revelation seems to indicate that the praise of heaven, and its joy in the triumphant Lion of Judah, will never forget the cross, but will ever be a joy that also sings of the lamb who was slain.

William Philip has been Minister at The Tron Church, Glasgow, Scotland since 2004. He was formerly Director of Ministry at the Proclamation Trust in London and is now Chairman of Cornhill Scotland. Prior to ordination, he was a doctor specializing in cardiology. He is married with two daughters

6th December

December 6th, 2016 - Posted & Written by The Editor

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