All good stories have a beginning. Everything must start somewhere. One of the phrases that every child hears time and time again is: “Once upon a time there was…” And just as every story has to have a beginning, so too does our Advent story.
Our story has two beginnings – one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.
The Old Testament starts with the words:
1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
The New Testament starts with these words:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Spoken like that we may wonder at how the Jesus story was even necessary. Both OT and NT begin with descriptions of total power – a power beyond any of our knowing. The OT: the Power of God. The Power of Creation. The Power of Creating everything out of nothing.
And the NT is as awesome – God in three persons – Creator, Son and Spirit has always existed, and will continue to exist into eternity.
And yet… we are looking at the Advent story which is all about a new born baby. No ordinary baby – this baby was destined to be a great religious leader who would incur the anger of the religious leaders and be accused of blasphemy and put to death in the most barbaric way you can imagine – only to be restored to life through the Power of Almighty God.
But, as we said, every story has to have its beginning and the OT and NT have a common theme– someone chosen from obscurity to become the great figurehead. GOD’S CHOICE!
Abram was chosen by God to be the Father of the new nation of God’s chosen people. A humble farmer, Abram or Abraham, became the figurehead, the progenitor, of the people whom God was to take through history as his chosen people. And he did!
Then there is the Jesus story. Could anyone have a more humble beginning to life than Jesus? Born to a virgin called Mary – a teenager – from a backwater village called Nazareth, in a poor country area. A family with little money available, needing to stay in a stable because there was no accommodation to be had in the county town of Bethlehem.
Humble beginnings indeed. But it was God’s choice. He wanted us to know that the humble way is God’s way. Never in any of the stories in the OT or the NT is God seen as a ruler of a nation, living in grand palaces, surrounded by generals and admirals and mighty armies. Instead we see God as a loving protector whose wish was and still is to take loving care of his chosen people.
If it were not for God’s love, how could he have entrusted his son to be born to a poor family in a backwater village, miles from the nearest palace or city. And he entrusted his son to a devoted but young girl called Mary.
This is what we see in our readings. Isaiah’s prophesy is of a shoot coming from a stump and becoming a great tree – and we are told of a remnant of God’s people becoming the great leader – who will be wise and righteous, loving and caring, with a strong faith and belief in God. A peace loving leader of all people.
The great leader that the Jewish nation looked forward to, the one to restore their place as God’s chosen people.
And John the Baptizer makes a similar claim for the one who is to come after him. He, John, is just the messenger whose job is to announce the coming of Messiah.
Baby Jesus is now Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior.
The Baby Jesus who received so much love from Mary and Joseph, is now the giver of love, whose command to us is to “Love the Lord our God with all our heart and all of our strength and all of our spirit, and our neighbor as we love ourselves”. And Jesus came to restore us to our place as God’s chosen people – God’s family.
Small beginnings. Humble beginnings. That is God’s way.
Come Baby Jesus! Come Lord Jesus!.