This is the first advent reading that went along with the For Unto Us 2016 Christmas Prayer Loft at the Gathering House Covenant Church in Spokane Washington.
by Margot Cioccio
For to us
a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
We've all heard these words from Isaiah 9:6-7 before. You may also recognize them from Handel’s Messiah. It is a massive 259 page score, with a quarter of a million notes that he completed in 24 days. I believe that he was “God” inspired to write at such a pace. He would have had to average more than 15 notes a minute, yet his handwritten score has very few mistakes. It is as if he was hearing something from the spiritual realm and capturing it for us on earth.
My intent is not to talk about Handle, but to reflect on Advent. The order of the candles will be a little scrambled this year on purpose to go along with Isaiah 9:6-7 passage featured in our prayer loft. The advent wreath is thought to be a teaching tool created by Martin Luther. I can’t completely confirm this but the advent wreath in its present form started in Germany as a Lutheran family custom. The first topic is supposed to be hope, then love, then joy, and finally peace. I want to turn it and view the advent season from heaven’s perspective rather than from that of mankind. I hope you will indulge me. Each of these readings goes along with things found in our prayer loft and you are welcome to enjoy them in any order as well.
Today we start with love, the great love of God for creation. It is from the amazing depths of love that God not only gave us free will but had a plan already laid out to redeem us from the pit we all find ourselves in when we reject His ways and go it on our own. I want to read you this same Isaiah passage of scripture from a translation called the voice. “Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams, a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift. And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great. The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.”
We have been given a living gift and if we make room for it, it will transform not only our own lives but the world around us. We celebrate Jesus as a baby in the manger and maybe your Christian walk has gotten stuck there. This morning I want to remind you that Jesus is not a baby in a manger any more. When he ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty he sent us the Holy Spirit, to be our teacher, counselor and comforter. He didn’t leave us here as spiritual paupers but left us to be priests, kings and prophets. We are at very least to be people who influence others. Daniel 11:32 say …”the people who know their God shall be strong, and do great exploits.” In John 14:12 “Jesus say to us, Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” We have been given kingdom authority and access t kingdom resources to make a kingdom difference. If you stop for a moment and look at the wonder and detail of creation or pause to think about the vast number of stars in the night sky, it is clear that our God in his love is infinitely creative. Romans 8:19 For all of creation is waiting, yearning for the time when the children of God will be revealed.” I have read that verse and perhaps you have too and thought some day in the far flung future God will set things right. Well…That day was the day Jesus was born. Creation is not waiting for God to do something but for his children to wake up to who they are called to be in him. For every problem in our world, God has an answer and perhaps if we would wake up, we might begin to walk as people of his love with influence and creative solutions.
For unto us…God has given a living gift not a memorial statue found in a nativity scene. While we look at these verses and go through the holidays we can simply get all warm and nostalgic or we might turn on the light bulb to the truth to what happened that day and realize that gift was given to you and me and we might wake up and begin to be transformed by the magnitude of it.
As we light this first candle of love, let us remember that one of the very first teachings that Jesus shared was that we are the light of the world. We are the earthen vessels through which His love is poured out. Habakukkuk 2:14 says “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
Lord, wake us up from our slumber to walk in all that you have provided and intended for us. Wake us up and help us to be living reflections of your love until it fills the earth for your glory.