Monday, December 8, 2008

The Second Week of Advent: Monday

The Story, of which Jesus' first Advent is the climax, goes back further than the Exodus, which we thought about yesterday.

The Hebrew Bible begins at the absolute beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1.1). The following meditation on God's subsequent creative work (Genesis 1.2-2.3) portrays Him as a Master Craftsman and Temple Builder, who formed a special land, filled it with living creatures, and set human beings there as his representatives to live and rule in his blessing. The high point of this account is when God creates humans in his image and blesses them.

Today's Vespers psalm, Psalm 148, reflects on God's works and calls them to praise their Maker:
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!
Why was Jesus born at Christmas? Why will he return in power and glory to reign? To fulfill God's original plan for the works of his hands. Jesus has come and will come again to restore God's blessing to all creation. Indeed, this present creation will be purged of all sin, evil, corruption, and death, and a new creation will emerge--a new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness and peace dwell.

What is at stake in Jesus' coming is set forth in Ephesians 1.9-10: "He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

Joy to the world! The Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King,
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make His blessings flow
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.

Original Version by Isaac Watts
Psalm 98, Part 2
The Messiah's coming and kingdom

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