We are excited to share Day 23 of WL Advent with this reflection and song from Charlotte Ryerson.
Day 23 Reflection from Charlotte Ryerson:
Blessed, Blessed, Blessed
Several years ago, I was asked to write some music for our church Christmas program. As I read and lived in the thrilling Christmas scriptures, I fell in love with some people who don’t often take center stage in Christmas plays. In fact, this song is one of four that I wrote for that program, a collection called Friends of the Christ. Along with Elizabeth, the other songs celebrate Zechariah and John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna, and The Magi.
In my reading, I was moved to tears by the account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. I can imagine her, a young woman, with child and on foot, traveling “in haste” to the house of Zechariah. In Luke 1:36-7 we get a hint that the angel Gabriel may have been the one who suggested this trip when he told Mary:
”Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Gabriel encouraged her by pointing her to God, for whom nothing is impossible. He also told her she was not alone in conceiving a special baby.
Not long after, Mary hurried to find that special older woman who would understand and (along with her husband Zechariah) provide a place of safety for her. Mary stayed three months and we imagine what a blessed time of rest, praise and preparation that was for both women.
“Blessed, Blessed. Blessed” is a song that is based on Luke 1:39-45, Elizabeth’s response to the greeting of her relative, Mary. We can imagine her coming in the door, calling Elizabeth’s name, and see the older woman’s eyes widen as the Holy Spirit fills her mouth with praise to God. We see her clutch her side and feel the leaping of John the Baptist in her womb! There is rich theology there, including the revelation that Jesus is Lord!
What a great glimpse into the lives of two ordinary women whom God used in such an overwhelmingly glorious way!
Day 23 Song: https://youtu.be/720SrvSgZE0
Song of Solomon 2: 8-14
Zephaniah 3: 14-18a
Resp. Psalm 33: 2-3, 11-12, 20-21
Luke 1: 39-45
What is Advent? By Robb Redman
Christmas is a fantastic season and there is every reason to pull out all the stops to celebrate the Incarnation, God “moving into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, Message) But by starting our Christmas celebration right after Thanksgiving (or even earlier), we skip over Advent, the four Sundays prior to Christmas Eve. The mood and message of Advent is not opposed to the celebration of Christmas, but the season is clearly much more than just the run-up to Christmas. It is a season to experience God’s goodness and faithfulness more authentically from a different, and frankly, a deeper and more encouraging angle. And who couldn’t use that right now?
You see, the Advent message is the perfect one for pastors and worship leaders trying to serve God and his people during a time of a global pandemic. We’ve been telling our people since March in response to the pandemic that God is in control, but we’ve been saying it so long that we’ve run out ways to say it, and we’re wondering if people have started tuning us out. And some of us are starting to have doubts and questions of our own. With Christmas around the corner, what can encourage us and restore our hope and faith in God again? We need to be immersed in the reminder and reassurance of God’s sovereign plans and purposes if we’re going to lead with confidence. Which is why Advent is important now more than ever.
What is Advent? This year, first Sunday of Advent falls on November 29, so there are 26 days in the season. Advent is more than a pre-Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. Throughout the history of the Church, Advent has been about much more. The traditional mood and message of Advent includes three main themes:
- Israel’s yearning for deliverance and its hope and expectation of the appearing (Latin: advent) of the promised Messiah.
- God’s preparation for the coming of the Messiah through the announcements to Mary, Joseph, and Mary’s extended family.
- The Church’s longing for the return of Christ and the fulfillment of redemption at the day of the Lord.
The readings for Advent in the Protestant and Roman Catholic lectionaries reflect these three main themes of the season. During Advent we re-live and re-tell the important prophecies and stories that proclaim the God who keeps his promises. It is this “back story” of Israel’s experience and faith, and a specific Jewish family, that makes the news of Jesus’ birth truly gospel, really good news.
The hope and expectation of God’s covenant people for deliverance is found throughout the Old Testament prophets. They warned the people of imminent disaster resulting from disobedience to God through idolatry and faith in political alliances, but they also proclaimed God’s promise of deliverance and restoration. After the fall of Jerusalem, the prophets continued to hope in God, who would restore Israel and rule in righteousness through his Messiah. More than that, they saw the bigger picture of God’s redemptive purposes, his intended to defeat evil, sin and death itself, and restore all nations to a right relationship with him in the day of the Lord.
In the years leading up to Jesus’ birth, the plight of God’s people went from bad to worse. Israel was occupied, first by the Greeks and then the Romans. Worst of all, God seemed silent; four hundred years had passed since the last prophet, Malachi. The opening chapters of Matthew and Luke report that God was on the move, quietly and in the most inconspicuous ways, making preparations for the arrival of his Son, Jesus, through Mary and her family, and her fiancé, Joseph. The time had come, and God set in motion the events that would culminate in the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation. Paul tells us that “…when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” (Galatians 4:4)
Finally, hope of Israel and the first advent of Jesus serve to direct our attention to his second and more glorious coming. Advent reminds us that God’s plans and purposes will one day unfold on a global scale, and “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
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Robb Redman is currently Professor of Theology and Ministry and Director of Ministry Programs at South College (TN). He also serves as Consulting Editor for Worship Leader magazine since its inception in 1992. He has previously served as an academic leader at Fuller Theological Seminary, A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary/Simpson University, Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University, and South University. Ordained in the Christian & Missionary Alliance, he has pastored congregations in Oregon, California, Texas, and Georgia. He currently lives near Savannah, GA.