A to Z of Advent - a thought for every day!
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
A thought for each day in Advent comes from Anna Chaplain in Newcastle, Joan Grenfell...
Advent is about looking forward with hope: looking forward in the short term to the day we remember and celebrate the birth of Christ – the day we welcome into our world, Emmanuel, God with us.
But it is also about looking forward to the second coming of Christ, when God’s kingdom will be established on earth, when death will be no more, where there will be no more pain or crying or mourning, when these things will have passed away.
The Advent God
The Advent God is the one who ‘came down to earth from heaven’. He is ‘God and Lord of all’. He came down to share our humanity; to share our pains, our trials, our joys. The Advent God knows each of us by name and longs to meet each one of us when he comes.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6
An A-Z of Advent
Angels are central to the story of Christ’s birth. An angel appears to Mary telling her she has been chosen to be the mother of God’s Son. An angel appears in a dream to Joseph telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Angels appear to shepherds telling them of a baby’s birth in the city of David.
'Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth; ye who sang creation’s story, now proclaim messiah’s birth.'
If Christmas is about anything, it is about a baby… a baby who changed the world forever. A baby who was a king and yet lay in a feeding trough. A baby who was God… lying in a manger.
A young girl named Mary was chosen to bring to birth the child Jesus. She was chosen to fulfil the Advent promise that 'behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel' (Isaiah 7:14).
'Go and search diligently for the young child, and when you have found him, bring me word that I may come and worship him also' (Mathew 2:8).
These were the instructions of King Herod to the wise men from the east who were seeking the Christ child. They did seek him diligently, not because of any instructions from Herod, but because this child heralded a new way, a better way and they earnestly desired to find him. When they had found him, they gave to him their treasures and their hearts as they worshipped him.
Jesus was he 'who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross' (Philippians 2:6–8).
Frankincense was one of the costly gifts given to the Infant Jesus by the visitors from the east.
It was widely used in temple worship. As it was burned, its scent was released and offered up to God. It was a fitting gift, then, for this child who is worthy of our worship and praise.
Ask people what Christmas is about and they will say ‘It’s about presents, it’s about gifts.’
And they would be right, because the most important gift of all, the child Jesus, was given by God… to the world, and it was given out of pure love.
'God from on high hath heard; Let sighs and sorrows cease; The skies unfold, and lo! Descends the gift of peace.'
Holly has traditionally been used to decorate homes at Christmas. Its thorns and red berries remind us of the one born to give his life on the cross for the sins of us all.
'Now the holly bears a berry as blood it is red, And we trust in our saviour who rose from the dead.'
'The inns are full; no man will yield this little pilgrim bed; But forced He is with simple beasts in crib to lay His head.”
'And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn' (Luke 2:7).
'Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing!'
The coming of Christ inaugurated the kingdom of God. A kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace; of justice, love and peace.
Love and light
'Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine; Love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign.'
Light came into the world at Christmas; the light, which shines in the darkness and which can never be put out.
'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God' (Isaiah 40:3).
'Bethlehem, of noblest cities, none can once with thee compare; Thou alone the Lord from heaven, didst for us incarnate bear.'
'Once in royal David’s city, stood a lowly cattle shed; Where a mother laid her baby, in a manger for his bed. Mary was that mother mild; Jesus Christ her little child.'
'And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!' (Luke 2:13).
Mary was puzzled when told by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive and bear a Son to be named Jesus… so she asked, ‘ How can this be, since I know not a man?’
‘The power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:34–35).
And the angel said to Mary: ‘Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; Blessed are you among women!’ (Luke 1:28).
'While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground; the angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around.'
And the angel said to them, There is to be born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord… You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger' (Luke 2:12).
'Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown when thou came to earth for me, But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity; O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.'
No one had ever seen God. No one knew what he looked like or what he was like. No one knew, until God came down to earth, making himself known in Jesus. And then we saw hHim!
So we can now pray: We give thanks and praise for your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in the love of God.
'Virgin-born, we bow before Thee: Blessed was the womb that bore Thee; Mary, Mother meek and mild; Blessed was she in her Child.'
'What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb. If I were a wise man, would do my part; yet what I can I give him? Give my heart."
Xmas is more than an abbreviation for Christmas. It literally means ‘Christ’s birth’. The X comes from the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of the Greek word Christos.
The child we wait to welcome says to us: 'Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart' (Matthew 11:28–30).
Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. He said of his son, ‘And you, child, shall be called the Prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.’
Our Advent journey is over. We celebrate your birth. We kneel before you in adoration, bringing you the gift of our obedient hearts.
'Yea, Lord. We greet Thee, born this happy morning,
Jesu, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!'