Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 4: The Mysteries of God (2)
Gen 22:18 through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
(Additional Readings: Gen 12:1-3,22:12-18)
Recap: We are tracking just a few of what I have referred to as the ‘breadcrumbs’ of the Old Testament that lead us to Advent and the events that follow. These are simply the clues God gives in that half of the book that reveal the plan on His heart for His Son.
Breadcrumb No.2 A Family Line: There is a breadcrumb, as small as it may be, in a prophecy that Noah gave, in the form of a curse and blessings, after the flood, after the incident of him getting drunk, lying naked and being mocked by his youngest son, Ham (who was father of Canaan), but covered and respected by his other two sons, Shem and Japheth. He curses Ham and brings his blessing on the other two, as he refers to, “the Lord, the God of Shem,” and Shem is clearly to be the lead family. (see Gen 9:18, 25-27). Following Shem’s family tree (see Gen 11:10-27) we eventually come to a son named Abram, later Abraham. The next big breadcrumb (and remember, that clues in a good mystery novel are rarely obvious) comes in a record of a prophecy in Gen 12:1-3 where God promises Abram, “I will make you into a great nation … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Reasons for this family line: Abraham is traditionally seen as the father of Israel, the first of the Patriarchs, followed by Isaac and then Jacob who is renamed Israel and whose family grows into a nation we know by that name. Much of the time we take these verses in Gen 12 to refer to the father of faith, who showed that a relationship with God is possible, but I suggest there are three other highly significant reasons for the purpose behind the existence of Israel. First, Israel are to reveal God to the rest of the world. Second, as we look at their history throughout the Old Testament, we see they reveal the sinfulness of mankind, so that even those who purport to have a relationship with God by following the rules (the Law) need something more, need some other form of salvation.
Crucial for Advent: Third, and most significantly I believe for this season of the year, the existence of Israel meant the existence of what I call a ‘God environment’ into which the Son of God would be born. How we take this for granted! When Jesus arrived, he came to a God-orientated nation, a nation with history with God – lots of it – a nation with a temple and a priesthood and the Law of Moses, and synagogues in which it was taught on a weekly basis. Imagine Jesus stepping into some other country in the world where all that was absent. Imagine the work he would have to do simply to prepare the ground to be understood for who he was. But instead, he steps into an environment that is expecting a Messiah, a people who have been following the breadcrumbs for centuries, trying to work out what it all meant, a people whose minds were full of it. It was into this that Jesus spoke and acted.
Advent is the season observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, the birth of Jesus, at what we call Christmas. It all takes place in this prepared environment that is so crucial to all that follows, an environment that started to be created back with Seth, then down the tree to Abram, and then on until Israel became a nation. This is the context these breadcrumbs create for us into which the Son of God will be born as a baby.
And so the prayer: “Father, how incredible this story is, that having the plan to send your Son to redeem us, you started paving the way by creating this family tree that formed a nation into which he could be born. Thank you for the long-term wonder of all this, thank you that you did it to redeem us – me! Lord, please open my eyes that I may understand more fully that even today I am a player in this plan that originated before Creation, was revealed through the coming of your Son, and is still being worked out – even today! Thank you so much, Lord. Amen.”