The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 probably is not anyone’s favorite Advent passage. But it was included for at least two important reasons. First of all, it demonstrates that Jesus was a descendant of both Abraham and David, and therefore had a legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. But the long list of names, along with the failures of so many of them recorded in the Old Testament, helps us to better understand how long, and through how many unworthy sons of David, God’s people had been waiting. As the end of the chapter explains, the reason for the wait is that a very particular Son of David was needed. Only the One who was also “Immanuel” (God with us) could truly “save his people from their sins.” As we wait for the second coming of Jesus, we too need to be reminded that only he can deliver us from our own sin and death, and only he brings justice, righteousness and peace to the world.
There is nothing wrong with asking questions. In fact, in this week’s New Testament reading, Jesus explains that his kingdom disciples should be humble, like little children. As any parent knows, one thing little children do is ask lots of questions! But as we mature as God’s children, we need to learn to ask better questions. In our sermon passage, Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive a brother who sins against us. Jesus answers the question, but then he tells a parable that answers two more important questions concerning why and how we should forgive others. Only when we understand the answers to these two questions will we be able to make sense of and put into practice Jesus’ answer to the “how many times” question.
Jesus’ offer of rest for the weary and burdened is among the more well-known and cherished verses in Scripture. The context of his invitation, in Matthew 11-12, along with the context of our current circumstances, provide us an opportunity to think about what Jesus is offering, how we experience it, and why we should come to him for rest. Although we may sometimes prefer to complain about our burdens or pridefully display our weariness as a badge of honor, when we consider what Jesus means by a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light, we will realize that it is far better to come to him, submit to him, learn from him and be refreshed by his gracious presence.
“Epiphany” is a word used to describe a life-changing realization that has just dawned on you. In the Church calendar, it’s used to describe the life-changing revelation of Jesus Christ to the gentiles, as seen in His appearing to the wise men. Celebrated twelve days after Christmas, Epiphany is great opportunity to take stock of where we stand before the King of glory. Are we seeking Him? Are we trying to use Him for our own purposes? Are we worshipping Him? True joy is found in giving our lives to the One who first gave His life for us.
Refugees have a tough life. Driven from their homes by things like famine, persecution, and war, they face danger, deprivation, and despair. No one chooses to become a refugee, but our Lord Jesus willingly took on flesh, knowing that the very first stage of His earthly life would be lived as a refugee in Egypt. But it was all part of God’s grand plan of salvation. Jesus would become a refugee for us so that we might find our refuge in Him. He would shelter us through His blood so that we might help shelter others in His Name.
The devil has many tactics to destroy us but Christ delivers us from them all through His work on the cross. The One who was delivered over to death in our place is able to deliver us from every evil attack as we pray to Him for grace.
When it comes to temptation, we are in grave danger because we are exceedingly weak and our enemy is exceedingly strong. But God is infinitely stronger still, and He delights to protect and preserve those who pray in the Name of the One who never succumb to temptation, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The only thing harder than asking for forgiveness is forgiving someone who has really hurt us, yet Jesus says both are essential to the Christian life. How can we receive and extend true forgiveness? Only through the grace of the Savior who prayed, ‘Father, forgive them’ on the cross.
Dependence is not an easy thing to teach independently-minded sinners. How might God impress upon us our daily need for Him as well as His gracious provision for that need? By teaching us to pray the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. He is the one who meets our daily needs-both physical and spiritual-through His Son, the true Bread from heaven.
Who runs your life? Christians are quick to say “God,” but when we examine our motives and actions more closely we find that we often still try to be little gods unto ourselves. In the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us that the purpose of prayer is not to get what we want, but to learn what God wants and to tune our will to His.