Week 4 – Angels
Peace: The Gifts of the Incarnation to Those Who Receive the Promised Messiah
Sunday, December 18 Matthew 11:1-6, 25-30
Monday, December 19 John 10:1-18
Tuesday, December 20 Ephesians 3:14-21, 1 Peter 2:9-10
Wednesday, December 21 Hebrews 10:1-18
Thursday, December 22 Revelation 21:1-27
Friday, December 23 Revelation 22:1-21
Saturday, December 24 Luke 2:1-20
Sunday, December 25 Luke 2:21-38
I recently posted Advent Bible readings for November 27 to December 25 of this year. I have prepared a handout in English and Spanish here. Here is my guide for week four’s readings. Guides for Advent tend to label each week with a particular theme. The fourth week is often associated with the angels and peace. So, I focus the fourth week’s readings on peace, which I associate with the gifts of the incarnation to those who receive the promised Messiah. In the Old Testament, peace (shalom) can be a specific blessing from God, but it can also be a way of talking about the blessed life. The one who enjoys peace is one who is experiencing the good life. Isaiah 48:18 says, “If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your peace (or well-being) would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (NASB). Therefore, each of this week’s readings will have to do with the blessings that God showers upon his people, that is, upon those who enjoy peace with God. Peace is mentioned specifically by the angels in the reading for Christmas Eve, Luke 2:1-20 (reading 6).
Matthew 11:1-6, 25-30
In Matthew 11:1-6, 25-30 (reading 1), Jesus refers to blessings associated with his first coming in Matthew 11:1-6. These blessings are blessings associated with God’s salvation in Isaiah 35:4-6 and with the work of his anointed Servant in Isaiah 61:1. The blessings of Matthew 11:25-30 are familiar ones, including revelation and rest.
The second reading is John 10:1-18. As you read this passage, focus on the blessings associated with having Jesus as your Good Shepherd. A significant blessing of Jesus the shepherd is found in 10:15-18. He lays down his life for the sheep.
Ephesians 3:14-21 and 1 Peter 2:9-10
The third reading is Ephesians 3:14-21 and 1 Peter 2:9-10. Ephesians 3:14-21 is a rather lofty prayer in which Paul prays for us to experience the goodness of the Spirit (and of Christ) dwelling in us and to know the unsearchable riches of the love of Christ. In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the blessing is quite simple. It is to be the people of God, who have the special privilege of being both his priesthood and his holy nation (see Exod. 19:6).
Like John 10:1-18, Hebrews 10:1-18 helps us to bridge the gap between the manger and the cross. The good news of Jesus as our perfect sacrifice is developed in this passage in terms of our perfect sanctification and the promise of the full forgiveness of our sins. It also emphasizes the obedience of Jesus, who did the will of God (10:5-10). After all, it is obedience that God desires more than sacrifice, according to the Old Testament.
Revelation 21:1-27 and Revelation 22:1-21
The fifth and sixth readings are the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1-22:5 and the anticipation of the second coming of Jesus in Revelation 22:6-21. Revelation 22:11-13 fits with one of Revelation’s common themes, namely, that the best way to prepare for our future in the New Jerusalem is to be faithful followers of Jesus in the present. See Revelation 14:12, which speaks about the importance of keeping God’s commandments and holding on to faith in Jesus. Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus. It focuses upon his first coming, but the hope of the second coming is also associated with Advent.
The sixth reading is the familiar birth story that so many Christians read on Christmas Eve. Luke 2:14 is the key verse for our theme. It associates the blessing of peace with the birth of Jesus, who is Savior, Christ, and Lord (2:11). Can you recall why the shepherds might have been chosen to be the first recipients of the good news?
This reading for Christmas day shows the reception of the Christ child by Simeon and Anna. They are anticipating the “consolation of Israel” and the “redemption of Jerusalem” (2:25, 38). They associate these blessings with the coming of this child, the baby Jesus. Notice the end of Simeon’s words, “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” (2:32). Simeon is alluding to Isaiah 49:6, which speaks about God’s Servant figure who will be a blessing for Israel and a light to the nations (the Gentiles). Isaiah 49:6 ends with a reference to God’s salvation reaching “to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 ends by alluding to Isaiah 49:6. You will be my witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” May we proclaim the good news about Jesus in the year ahead and bring his light of revelation to many so that they might celebrate with us next Christmas. Merry Christmas!