This is the message Vanessa gave on the First Sunday in Advent. Scroll down the page for details of the Advent Activity pegs we made.
I love this weekend. It is the first weekend in December which means we get to go and get a tree, decorate it, start listening to carols, and the Christmas season in our house begins. I love it that Luke is part of it all and he is putting the angel at the top of the tree for the first time ever this year. It is the anticipation of what is to come, the counting down of the days or how many sleeps to go.
Advent is the period before Christmas when we anticipate and look forward to Christmas, the day Jesus was born. The day God gave his only Son who would ultimately enable us to have our own relationship with God.
I read and re-read the Winnie the Pooh stories many many many times while I was growing up. I really identified with Tigger and this Tigger song sums it up:
A wonderful thing is a Tigger;
A Tigger’s a wonderful thing.
Their tops are made out of rubber,
their bottoms are made out of spring.
They’re bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy,
fun, fun, fun, fun, fun,
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is:
I’m the only one!
Like me, have you ever identified with someone in a story, seen parts of yourself in a character you have read, or read about someone who you would like to be more like?
Here are a few people who played a part in that first advent, the time leading up to Jesus’ birth. Let’s see if there is anyone you are drawn to.
ZECHARIAH (Luke 1: 5-23)
Zechariah was a priest, a man who studied the Bible, the way of God, and who lived a good life obeying all of God’s commands. But something was wrong. He and his wife Elizabeth hadn’t had any children, and they were now too old for this to happen.
While he was at work in the temple one day, an angel appeared to him. The angel told him that their prayers were being answered, they were going to have a baby, a special God-given baby that would prepare the way for the Lord. Zechariah knew that God had done this very miracle before – given babies to women who were unable to conceive. There was Sarah, who had Isaac, Rebekah who had Jacob, Rachael, who had Joseph, and Hannah, who had Samuel. All of these women were empty, and God filled them. Their painful emptiness was obvious to everyone around them…..and God filled it. You may have an emptiness that is obvious or hidden: please hear this, there is ONLY one thing that can fill that hole, and it is God.
Why had God chosen them? If something happens against all the odds or makes possible the impossible…. then it has to be a miracle. It has to be God. It must be God. It IS God.
So right now an angel is telling Zechariah it was going to happen to them too, they were going to have a baby. And yet he doubted and questioned it “how do I know that this is going to happen? We are both too old to have children”
He didn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it, he may even have been too scared to believe it. The very thing they had prayed for had come true, and it was too much to take in. Had Zechariah prayed this prayer for so long that it just became empty words he didn’t really believe?
If you have a prayer that seems impossible, it is possible when you pray to God. Be ready to accept it when it comes true, for nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:31-37)
Elizabeth was Zechariah’s wife and had also lived a good life obeying all of God’s commands. This tells us she knew the Bible, and had kept her faith with God. She had not gone looking at other religions for the answer to why she was unable to have children. There was a social stigma attached to their lack of children. People would have thought there was something was wrong with them and they were being punished for it. When Elizabeth became pregnant she said “now at last the Lord has helped me. He has taken away my public disgrace.”
Elizabeth was not just old but the Bible says she was very old. An angel told Mary “Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is nothing that God cannot do.” (Luke 1:36-37).
Soon after this, Mary went to visit her. When Elizabeth and Mary saw each other, the baby inside Elizabeth jumped for joy. For this special God-given baby was John the Baptist. And Mary was pregnant at the same time with Jesus. And the connection for advent, the time of preparing for the birth of Jesus is John the Baptist. As it says in the Bible “He will be a great man. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. He will get the Lord’s people ready for him.” (Luke 1:15-17)
How amazing it must have been for these women to share this incredible time. They were both pregnant, and both with miracle babies. Elizabeth was too old, and Mary a virgin. And here they were together, for each other, at this time. We all need someone to support us, and it is often not the same person for everything. Who supports you, who do you support?
This is something Gail wrote …
Mary said “Yes, Lord.”
Yes – turn my life upside down.
Yes – change my certain future for the unknown.
Yes – take away the comfortable sameness of my life.
Yes – make me your servant.
Yes – use me to speak your word to the world.
Yes – bring your glory forth in my life.
Yes – change me forever.
Oh Yes, Lord! Yes!
Would you say yes?
What’s a guy to think when his girlfriend gets pregnant to someone else? Joseph wanted to break up with Mary, he obviously didn’t believe the story about it being God’s son. That is until he was told in a dream that it was going to be alright, and he was to name the baby Jesus. The naming of a Jewish child had great significance. It is not only a statement of what it was hoped the child would be, but also where they came from. And it was Joseph who named the baby Jesus. Jesus, because he would save us from our sin.
So God is sending his only son from heaven down to earth, not as a fully grown man ready for his mission to save the world but as a newborn baby boy. A baby needing someone to provide love, food, shelter and protection who will grow into a boy. A boy who will learn the way of the world to become a man stepping out on his own who will change the world by what he says and what he does. And who is the person God chose to be the earthly father to Jesus, to adopt and raise him as though he was his own?…… Joseph.
Has God given you someone to care for? A family member:older or younger? A friend, a neighbour, an animal?
I also think Joseph is truly obedient. He obeyed when he stood by Mary, when he didn’t have to. Society would not have thought any less of him if he left Mary, but they would have thought a whole lot less of Mary. He listened to God and stayed with Mary when she was pregnant, he listened to God and took Mary and Jesus to the safety of Egypt, and he listened to God and returned to settle in Nazareth. In obeying all this, Joseph fulfilled the prophecy in Hosea 11:1 “I called my son out of Egypt.”
Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph ….. Who are you?
Bought Advent Calendars are so commercial – and usually have nothing at all to do with the birth of Jesus! We made these Advent Activity pegs with a different activity for each day, which could be drawn at random from a bag to make things a little less predictable – especially if you reuse them another year. Supplies needed are: clothes pegs, glue or double sided sellotape, the templates for the numbers to be written on, and the activity cards – these last two are on .pdf files below.