Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent 13 | A Light for the Patriarchs

To observe Advent is to recognise that we do not wait on our own, but as the latest in a long line of those who have waited for God to come to us in Jesus. That is why we light candles incrementally on the four Sundays in Advent:

on the First Sunday in Advent, to remember the Patriarchs;
on the Second Sunday in Advent, to remember the patriarchs and the Prophets;
on the Third Sunday in Advent, to remember the patriarchs and the prophets and John the Baptiser;
and on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, to remember the patriarchs and the prophets and John the baptiser and Mary the mother of Jesus.

All of these who have gone before us, who prepared to meet God-come-to-us, and who called others to prepare, learnt one thing in common:

that if you would meet with God-come-to-us,
you must walk away from everything else,
from every other possible source of security and identity,
into the wilderness.

For in the wilderness, not only do you discover that every other possible source of security and identity runs dry…
…you also discover that God Provides.

The photo is of a well Abraham dug in the Negev, on the very edge of sustainable life, some 3,800 years ago.

‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for…

…By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death…

…These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.’

(Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19, 39-40)

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