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Week 3: The Time is Near

Scripture Reading

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
when GOD returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
“GOD was wonderful to them!”
GOD was wonderful to us;
we are one happy people.
And now, GOD, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Psalm 126:1-6 (MSG)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)

Do It Again

The hope of the Jewish people was that God, the Creator God who spoke light and life into the darkness and chaos, the Covenant God the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Savior God who delivered their enslaved ancestors from the oppressive empire of Egypt would do it once again for them. Their sin and rebellion had exiled them into the foreign nation of Babylon, and by the waters of Babylon, they wept when they remembered their homeland (Psalm 137:1-4).

And then one day, out of nowhere, they were released to go back home! They returned with excitement and joy to rebuild their cities and rebuild their lives. So they did with singing, dancing, and excitement, ready for God to return to Israel. But time went on. And God never returned to the Temple. They waited for hundreds of years for the Messiah, their long-awaited king, to come and be a new Moses and bring deliverance to their people and defeat their enemies. It seemed like it would never happen, that God had forgotten, and that it won’t happen again.

Unexpected Places and Unlikely People

But then in a small country town named Nazareth, to a young, teenage girl named Mary, the angel appears again with a powerful message of Good News, God is coming back to Israel, but in a place no one expected to a person most unlikely. God had not forgotten, He had remained faithful to His promises. The same God who spoke light into the darkness, who set the people free from slavery to Egypt, will come into the world as a baby, a son born of woman, in the line of David, to be the long-awaited Messiah who will be the delivering King to set God’s people free!

The story of Advent proves to us that God does not forget His promises, but often fulfills those promises in unexpected ways. It shows us that anyone who believes in God’s character to bring about His promises, and keeps their hopes alive that He will fulfill them can be involved in the story. It doesn’t matter where you are, however small or obscure you feel, God has not forgotten you and will come through.

The angel Gabriel makes a powerful statement that “nothing will be impossible for God.” Nothing! There is nothing that is too difficult for God, nothing to hard, nothing impossible for Him. He is very capable of overcoming any obstacles standing in the way of His promises coming to fulfillment. He can come into our “drought-stricken lives” and bring rains of refreshment. We may carry heavy burdens in life that cause us to have heavy hearts, but God enters into the wastelands of our lives and can turn our mourning into dancing, or our spirit of heaviness into shouts of joy. We simply need to give over our lives and circumstances to God, and posture our hearts the same way Mary did, “let it be to me according to your Word,” trusting that He will be true to His Word.

Reflection

Think about Mary and what the circumstances of her life were in that moment: a young teenager, engaged to be married, in a small country town. How does God selecting a person in those circumstances make you feel about the kinds of people He brings into His story?

Have you ever felt that you’re not the kind of person God would use to bring about His promises? How does this story change your mind?

Remember a time you were pleasantly surprised. Not just a little surprised, but a big surprise. How did it feel being shocked with joy? Was there a little bit of confusion? Describe your feelings of joy.

Response

Are there areas of your life that you have thought were too impossible for God to work out? Allow the words in this story, “nothing will be impossible for God,” to strengthen your faith in the midst of that challenge or circumstance.

Think of someone in your family or workplace who may be in a “drought-stricken” season in their life, or who may have “heavy hearts.” Be a source of encouragement and strength for them in this season, and pray for the seeds they have sown in tears bring a harvest of laughter and “armloads of blessing.”

Advent Hymn

Joy to the World ~ Isaac Watts

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 heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders, of his love.

Further Reading

Psalm 37:1-11
Isaiah 61:1-11
Luke 1:38-56

View Week 4

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