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God With Us; Advent

Happy Advent season as we approach celebrating the birth of Jesus. Here's one take on why we celebrate!
“In the beginning God '' (Gen. 1:1). The opening line of the Bible leaves no ambiguity as to who the book is about. When we open the Bible, we are learning about God and the truth of a world created and sustained by Him. Our story is only a part of His story and it is one of redemption and hope. God always intended to be with us and we were created to be with Him. It’s why we all have a longing inside of us for something more. We long for the advent of God on earth. Advent is a Latin word that means both “coming” and “arrival,” and neatly captures what God has done, is doing, and will do. It’s a promise of relationship-restoration. During Advent we focus on God and the ways in which He is with us, celebrating His work and His promises: we celebrate Jesus. Because humanity is so good at forgetting, a reminder of God's activity is vital! We could spend a lifetime exploring the ways God shows up for us, but we’ll pick just one promise today: a promise communicated to us through Moses as he passed the torch to Joshua. This exhortation is still relevant today. As we move through Advent, we'll dive into the history and promise of Deuteronomy 31:6, wending our way to Jesus, the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and discuss the impact this promise should have on how we live our lives today.

Let’s take a sky-high view of the Old Testament and gain the ability to admire its shape and themes; let’s allow ourselves to appreciate the revelations of human behavior. Apart from God’s intervention, we sin. Adam & Eve sinned, Noah sinned, Abraham sinned...each and every human from the very beginning has sinned against God with only one exception. Our sin nature—our proclivity to disobey and distrust God—is the very thing that keeps us from experiencing what we all want at our deepest level of being: to be redeemed into relationship with the Father. It reminds me of that saying, “God uses sinners because that’s all there is.” The Hebrew Scriptures do a fantastic job of driving that point home with example after example of our falling short of the standard. In the midst of this history of our failures, however, we find a solution presented as a promise, "And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Here we see God telling the enemy that his plans to separate us from Him are doomed to failure. Fast forward a bit and by the time we arrive at Deuteronomy 31, the reality that humans cannot accomplish this alone has solidified. Moses, the figure who became most intimate with God and who subsequently wrote the Pentateuch, relays God’s message to Joshua and Israel. He says, “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for Yahweh your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). The promise that God will never leave us is reiterated many times in scripture and gives us comfort today.

At odds is our inability to get near to God due to sin, and our inability (as demonstrated through the history of scripture) to become free of sin. So to accomplish what God promised, he had to do it himself. Enter Jesus. At Christmas we celebrate the advent of Immanuel, or the arrival of God with us. Jesus, our savior, intercedes with the Father on our behalf: taking on our sins and declaring us clean and restored. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, God continues to be with us always. This is the best news and is why the Gospels are called the Gospels (it means the "good news")! So take courage and strength this Advent season! We don't have to fear what life throws at us because the God who created and sustains us loved us enough to die for us and rescue us. Go forth in strength and courage because God is near, always.

Added practice: Carve out a couple minutes to listen to the song I Am by the band JUDAH. Let the lyrics fill you as the author relays God’s promises from the Bible in a poetic and musical way, and hear the words addressed to you.