Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love

Today we head into the final week of waiting for our annual celebration of the birth of Mary’s son, Jesus. We expectantly anticipate the coming—the Advent—of the Son of the Most High as she did. During each week of Advent, I focused on finding the traditional Advent themes in Mary’s story.

Week one: HOPE

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

—the angel Gabriel to Mary of Nazareth (Luke 1:31-33 NIV)

The word hope is used only one time in the Gospels to refer to God and it’s a quote from the Old Testament: “In his name the nations will put their hope” (Matthew 12:21 NIV). If that’s the case, where do we find hope in Mary’s story?

The Bible defines hope as patiently or eagerly waiting for what we do not yet have or see (Romans 8:25). Mary waited nine months for for the fulfillment of the angel’s promise—the birth of her son, to have sex with Joseph, for her son to begin his ministry, for people to realize he was great, for his kingdom to come on earth.

We wait every day for small things like the dryer cycle to complete, our turn in the check-out line, and the weekend. In this particular season, we wait for a vaccine, herd immunity, our twice-postponed trip, and a hug from our parents. And we wait for far-off things like a cure for cancer and the second Advent of Jesus.

I’m not sure how patiently or eagerly Mary accomplished her waiting. But I do know that she believed. I think Mary exercised hope when she “believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45 NIV). Hope is intricately intertwined with belief. Ponder that!

In Mary’s waiting our hope is found. As predicted, her son arrived on time. He is still great and he continues to reign.

May your Advent season be filled with hope in the very One you wait for.

Week 2: PEACE

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!

—the angels to the shepherds (Luke 2:14 NET)

Every December we quote this verse and sing “peace on earth good will to men.” But there doesn’t seem to be much peace this year. Festive music, twinkling lights, and undeserved gifts do bring some feelings of goodwill and merriment. They can also produce a facade of cheer and fleeting happiness.

But the kind of peace (eirene in Greek) that the angels spoke of to the shepherds is the way that leads to salvation—true peace with God.

Zechariah—who also got a message from an angel—said that Jesus came to “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79 NET).

After receiving the angel’s message, the Shepherds hurried off to find the newborn baby and so of course, met Mary of Nazareth and her husband Jospeh. When they recounted the story to Mary, she “treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean” (Luke 2:19 NET). She was unaware how pierced her heart would be over the next thirty-three years. The peace her baby son would bring had nothing to do with tranquility and warm fuzzy feelings.

Let us, like Mary, ponder the true meaning of peace this Advent season.

Week 3: JOY

As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

—Elizabeth to Mary (Luke 1:44 NIV)

After the angel, Gabriel, told Mary she would give birth to the Savior, Mary set off to tell Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her unborn baby jumped for joy and Elizabeth responded by blessing or speaking well of Mary. Mary in turn praised God by saying, “My spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:47).

[Elizabeth’s] neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Luke 1:58 NIV

When John the Baptist was born to a childless elderly couple, the neighbors rejoiced in this occasion for gladness.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

—the angel said to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-10 NIV)

The shepherds responded to the announcement of the birth of the Messiah with joy and hurried off to find the baby (Luke 2:16), spread the word of his birth (Luke 2:17) and praised and glorified God for all the the things they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20).

When [the Magi] saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Matthew 2:10 NIV

Even the wisemen responded with joy when they saw the star of the king of the Jews rest above the place were Jesus was.

In Scripture, joy is our response to good news—especially the gospel—which results in praising God. But joy is also our response to trials (James 1:2) and Jesus’s response to the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

“Christian joy is no mere gaiety that knows no gloom, but is the result of the triumph of faith over adverse and trying circumstances, which, instead of hindering, actually enhance it.” (D. Miall Edwards, International Standard Bible Dictionary)

May you respond with joy and praises to God this Advent for both good and troubling news.

Week 4: LOVE

We do not find the word love (agape in Greek) directly in any of the scripture narratives describing the birth of Jesus Christ. However, without love we would not have Christmas at all. We know this because the biblical writers told us in other passages:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NIV)

Agape is sacrificial love—the Father God giving up his son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, allowing Jesus to leave his presence and become human.

But we also find love in Mary as a mother. She risked the scoffing and ridicule of others, changed her life trajectory, and endured hours of labor to birth the Savior. As she held the newborn in her arms she must have been filled with love for him—love that would sacrifice and do anything to keep him safe, to raise him well, and help them fulfill his mission.

May you know and feels God’s sacrificial love for you as you celebrate Jesus’s birth.

(For more on Mary’s story, purchase Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth available on Amazon.)

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