There are a few different ways of celebrating Advent, and with those come various themes, such as hope, peace, joy and love. The theme I chose many years ago, when I started bringing Advent into our family celebrations is that of the various people who “saw” Jesus’ birth:
- The prophets who “saw” and foretold Him hundreds of years before He came to earth.
- The angels who had watched this amazing story unfold, and told Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds about Him.
- The shepherds who came to worship this God-baby who had been humbly born, Someone they could relate to.
- The magi (wise men) who heard about Him through a star and sought Him out, traveling far with treasures to honor Him.
This week, the first week of Advent, we’re reading some of the prophecies about Jesus’ birth, along with the Scriptures that describe their fulfillment.
There are a couple of things I’d like to highlight about this week’s theme. First of all, one of the reasons we read about the prophecies about Jesus is because they help to prove to us who Jesus was. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, how could anyone have known these details about the Messiah ahead of time? There are many more prophesies about Jesus, but these are the primary ones we think of at Christmas. (My Passover Book, Next Year In New Jerusalem highlights many, many more of these prophecies — no promises, but hoping to have it back in print this spring for Passover).
Another reason we look at the prophecies about Jesus is because they remind us what we should be doing: Telling people about Him! In the US, we now live in what has been called “the post-Christian culture.” In many ways, this is a tragedy, but in other ways, it can be good. It’s very difficult to help people in a Christian culture understand that they can have a relationship with God or that they have a need for Jesus’ sacrifice. Say what?! Yes, you heard me right. People who think they’re Christians because they’re American don’t understand their deep need; they don’t know what they’re missing because they think they’ve got it. The contrast of God’s true love with our current culture is stark, making it easier to see that there is a need and that Jesus truly makes a difference in a person’s life.
Telling about Jesus doesn’t mean just … telling. Anyone can talk about Jesus. The strongest way to tell those who don’t know Jesus about Him is to let them see the evidence in you, your transformed life, the fruit of the Spirit. There’s a famous quote about this that I love. I’ve seen it attributed to various people. “Always preach the Gospel … and if necessary, use words.” The Apostle John said similarly, “Dear Children, let us not love with word or tongue, but with action and in truth.” It’s all too easy to tell people about Jesus, to push Him on others, to make them feel condemned or inferior (which is not what He would want). But to let Him shine through me, to humbly apologize when He isn’t reflected accurately in my life, to let Him express Himself to those around me through my hands and feet and mouth … can be a much clearer expression of the Gospel.
Am I saying not to ever use words to tell about Jesus? Am I suggesting that the Gospel should never be taught or preached with words? Absolutely not. Scripture is full of exhortations to preach and teach, and most people can’t come to Christ without hearing the Gospel explained to them. What I’m suggesting is that our actions need to precede and/or back up those words. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” YOU are a living photograph of what it means to have Christ in a person.
Let’s be aware all the time, but let’s be especially mindful this week of what our living photos portray.