Advent Reflection 5: O Come Let Us Adore Him

We have been delighted to have Karenza Mahtani write a series of Advent reflections for us over the past few weeks. Here’s the final one! Karenza is part of the Accessible Prophecy UK team. Art work is by Carolyn Higgins, another member of the team.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

It’s Christmas! The time when we celebrate the person of Jesus, born in a stable – the hope of the world. We take time to reflect on the Incarnation – God taking on the form of a vulnerable baby, yet not losing any of his divine greatness in the process. Fully God and fully man. This profound mystery has beguiled Christians through the centuries and I invite you today to once again marvel in its simplicity and yet unending beauty.

Leo the Great said, “Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the incarnation. From the time when Christ came, the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, and the speech of kindliness diffused. A heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth.” (Quoted in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals).

Take a moment to ponder on this quote. The birth of Jesus is so much more than just the beginning of his life and ministry. It is the turning of the tide, the first glimpses of heaven come to earth. It changes everything! Spend some time now considering what this means for you today, as well as for all of mankind. Perhaps ask God if there is a particular part of the quote that he wants to highlight to you – ask him some questions about this.

Last week, we reflected on the ways it is easy to miss what God is doing because of the busyness and stress of life. Certainly, Christmas is a time when we can do this without realising. However, we know from the gospels that many could not receive Jesus as he was and thus could not accept that the promises and prophecies had been fulfilled in their day. Not only did this lead to them missing out on the joy experienced by the shepherds and Simeon and Anna, but also to them missing his entire ministry whilst on earth. Even amongst his own disciples, there were those who had looked for a Messiah very unlike the incarnated Christ that arrives as a baby. Some people wanted him be a human king, a political revolutionary who defeated the Romans and restored the nation to a former glory. From this perspective, we can understand why King Herod was so disturbed by the news of his birth from the wise men. Others wished him to be a moral reformer who brought “sinners” into line. Even simple things like where he grew up and who his parents were are subjected to scrutiny at various points in the gospels, as surely a Messiah could not come from that town, or be part of a carpentry business. Yet we also see those who, like most of his disciples, allow these ideas to be challenged and replaced with the glorious reality of who Jesus truly is.

Everyone brings their own expectations of what and who Jesus should or shouldn’t be. We do too, even if we have walked with him for decades. The joy and mystery of the incarnation is that the more you are captivated by the humility and love of a God who would come and walk amongst us, serving us and giving up all comfort to see us comforted, the more you want to see. The longer you want to look. The more captivating it all becomes. The more in love we fall, especially as we consider the physical smallness of a tiny baby, yet the overwhelming, all-encompassing greatness contained within this person: Immanuel, Jesus Christ, God with Us.

As you go off into your Christmas celebrations, take moments throughout the days to just marvel, to adore, to thank Jesus for all he is. Allow him to reveal more of his nature to you and allow yourself to be caught up in that divine love that comes and finds us, even in the most surprising ways.

As Advent comes to an end, I pray that the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Advent Reflections 4: Our Hopes and Fears Through All the Years are Met in Thee Tonight

We are delighted to have Karenza Mahtani write a series of Advent reflections for us over the next few weeks. Karenza is part of the Accessible Prophecy UK team. Art work is by Carolyn Higgins, another member of the team.

Over these Advent weeks, we will be following a similar pattern to the traditional Advent wreath – 5 candles, 5 opportunities to reflect on different parts of the story. What each of these candles represents tends to vary across theological and ecclesiastical traditions, but each representation offers a fresh moment to pause and connect with God. I encourage you to take these moments as we move through this season.

The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognise him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:9-14

Last week, we reflected on the joy experienced by the shepherds and Simeon and Anna when they recognised that the promises of God had been fulfilled in sending Jesus. All of them experienced this joy, even though, as far as we know, only Simeon and Anna were waiting expectantly and specifically for the arrival of the Messiah. Nevertheless, all of them were in a position to receive the good news, the answer to the hopes and prayers of a yearning people across the centuries.

Are we in a position to recognize what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us? Are we attentive to what the Spirit is doing to bring answers to our prayers, breakthrough in our situations, and healing to our hearts? Sometimes we are quick to recognise it and to receive it with joy. Other times, it can be easy to miss what God is doing in our lives, especially if those lives are chaotic, stressful and noisy. Missing what God is doing can leave us going round in circles in our discipleship and prayer life. Moreover, if we aren’t aware of what God is doing in each of us, it can be difficult to express our testimony to others, as the shepherds and Anna did, especially to those who have not met Jesus yet. We know that knowing God closely makes an impact on us, but we also need fresh bread and new wine each day in order to grow closer to him and share the ongoing difference and transformation he brings to our lives. This starts with noticing when he is on the move.

In the Advent story, particularly in Luke 1, we see several figures who eagerly receive the news and play important roles in preparing the way for Jesus. Most notable amongst these is John the Baptist: he who “came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light” (John 1 v 7 – 8). Just as the prophets of the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah’s coming, he is both a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 40—“a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight!”—but also someone who in turn prophesies about the imminent arrival of the Messiah.

In Luke 1, we see Zechariah and Elizabeth wrestling and receiving the response to their own prayers for children, despite their advanced years. Their differing responses are worth considering, as Zechariah initially appears sceptical about whether this is even possible. This leads to him becoming mute from then on, throughout the whole pregnancy, and only receiving his voice back when he is fully obedient to the instructions of the angel, going against custom and naming his son John. Perhaps this is a challenge for all of us – when we don’t recognise what God is doing, we can lose our voice to share with others. It is in our careful attention to his words and obedience to what he says, that enables us to speak with authority and for those around us to be blessed.

Elizabeth on the other hand, seems to receive this news with great thanksgiving: “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favour in these days to take away my disgrace among the people” (Luke 1 v 25). Later on in Luke 1, we see Gabriel also visiting Mary and delivering the news that she will bear the Son of God – this part is often the bit represented in school nativity plays. Yet it is the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1 verses 39 – 45 that shows us the real power of receiving and recognising what God is doing. Mary’s greeting is not only heard by Elizabeth, but by John in the womb who leaps and causes the Holy Spirit to fill Elizabeth – an overflow of God’s power and joy. This leads Elizabeth to declare: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil what he has spoken to her.”

Indeed, this chapter finishes with a now fully restored Zechariah prophesying about both John and Jesus: “And you child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (v 76 – 79). To those who receive this move of God, there is salvation, mercy, rescue for those who live in darkness and peace for those who are afflicted and oppressed.

As the nativity story progresses, it is interesting to notice who receives the news of Jesus’ birth with thanksgiving and joy – the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the wise men. Later on, as we read about Jesus’ life and ministry, it is the poor, the outcasts, the sick, the downtrodden, the sinners that receive him (and John the Baptist) with great joy. But not everyone does. Those who have already received their comfort and already have stations of power and privilege, such as King Herod and later on the Pharisees and other religious leaders, are threatened by his arrival. Those who know the promises and the prophecies, but seem to be hoping that they would not be realised, at least not during their day. Far from missing what God is doing, they perceive it as an open challenge to their own position. A cause of fear, not of hope. Something to be silenced and cut down. If you’ve read the rest of the Christmas story, and indeed the rest of the Gospels, you know what happens as they attempt to stifle what God is doing.

But what happens if we are not in one of those camps. We are not always like Elizabeth and Mary, receiving and recognising what God is doing quickly and experiencing the accompanying blessings. Nor (hopefully!) are we like Herod, wanting not only to ignore what God is doing because of fear, ignorance or an oppressive comfort, but also to stamp out what he is doing in others. What if we simply are too busy, too stressed, too preoccupied to notice the ways God is working in our lives. To some extent, I would expect that all of us have elements of this within our walks with God. Especially in this last lead up to Christmas, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with tasks and expectations and therefore all too easy to miss the still small voice of God and the subtle ways he is working all things for our good.

Today I would encourage you to just take some time to pause. Be at peace. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you places of joy and breakthrough. Ask him where he is moving in your life. Perhaps you could also ask him to show you or remind you of a testimony that you could share with someone who hasn’t heard that God is Immanuel – God with us. We are no longer alone. Consider the image, listen to the song or perhaps gather a playlist of your own and create some space. Hand your hopes and fears over to him and rest in the wonderful knowledge that all of them are met and answered in the person of Jesus.

Advent Reflections 3: Rejoice in the Lord Always!

We are delighted to have Karenza Mahtani write a series of Advent reflections for us over the next few weeks. Karenza is part of the Accessible Prophecy UK team. Art work is by Carolyn Higgins, another member of the team.

Over these Advent weeks, we will be following a similar pattern to the traditional Advent wreath – 5 candles, 5 opportunities to reflect on different parts of the story. What each of these candles represents tends to vary across theological and ecclesiastical traditions, but each representation offers a fresh moment to pause and connect with God. I encourage you to take these moments as we move through this season.

But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the city of David a Saviour was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’

Luke 2:10—11

Previously, we reflected on the tension between what has been promised versus what we can see in our circumstances. The hope and expectation brought out from the Patriarchs and the Prophets, but also the reality of disappointment and lament both in our lives and those who waited hundreds of years for the Messiah to be revealed. However, this point in Advent traditionally represents a key shift, when the purple or blue candles of fasting, repentance and waiting give way to a pink candle symbolising joy and celebration. In the Catholic church, this week leads up to Gaudete Sunday, a name derived from Philippians 4 v 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” It is this Sunday, where we consider and meditate on the joy of those who recognised that the Messiah had finally come, particularly the shepherds as they rush to see the baby.

In this part of the story, we see the shepherds’ fear turn to overwhelming and infectious joy when they realise that God’s promises have been fulfilled, but also that they have been chosen to bear witness to this. Indeed, verse 17 and 18 tell us that, “After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”. In the context of the wider story, these are some of the first people to bear witness to the breakthrough of God’s kingdom after such a long time of waiting – no wonder they were filled with joy! There has been pain, darkness, dislocation, lament, but now we join them in celebrating because the Messiah has finally arrived.

Take a moment to reflect on that scene – Mary and Joseph with the new-born Jesus. The shepherds rushing to witness the events that have taken place – maybe they are crowded in close, or in the doorway as they wait their turn. Perhaps they are overcome with emotion, or like Mary, storing up all of this in their hearts. Spend some time with God today, asking him to show you where you fit in this scene. Are you in the midst of the joy, hungry for a glimpse of the Messiah? Or maybe you are somewhere else? Ask God if there is anything specific he wants to say to you in this place. Take some time now to check in.

There seems to be a clear theme of joy in Luke 2, as we see later in the chapter when Jesus is brought to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord, according to the law of Moses. Firstly, we meet Simeon who the Bible says “was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit he entered the temple” (v 25 – 27). Simeon was aware of the promises to the patriarchs and the messages of the prophets and he remained one of a faithful remnant who were waiting expectantly, despite the many hundreds of years that had passed without any sign of fulfilment. Moreover, he trusted in the promise that God had given to him. In this beautiful moment, we see his joy being made complete – he recognises Jesus and takes him into his arms, declaring “Now, Master; you can dismiss your servant in peace, as you promised. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (v 29 – 30). Shortly after, a widow and prophetess called Anna, who the Bible says never left the temple and who served God, day and night, also recognises Jesus and with great joy begins to thank God and share the good news that the Messiah has arrived to anyone who would listen. God grants these two individuals the honour of seeing the Messiah and the fulfilment of his promises before their deaths, and the result is overwhelming joy and thanksgiving.

Alongside hope and expectation, joy and thanksgiving are a key part of Advent. We need to take time to recognise and respond, not only to some of the things which have challenged us this past year, but crucially to those things that have brought us joy. Maybe you have seen answers to prayer this year. Perhaps there have been new additions to your family. A great holiday. An incredible meal with friends. A vaccine. New opportunities at work. An impressive flowering season. It could be anything. Whatever these things are, let us not be a people that forget to express joy and gratitude to God for the ways he meets our needs and fulfils his promises to us. A joyful heart is good medicine!

Take a few moments now to pray and thank God for all he has done for you this past year. You could write down individual things (be creative as to how!) or just thank him for the year as a whole and all the ways he has blessed you. Enjoy listening to this favourite Christmas carol and let it spark the joy of the shepherds, and of Simeon and Anna, in your heart. And remember, in the spirit of Gaudete Sunday: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Advent Reflections 2: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

We are delighted to have Karenza Mahtani write a series of Advent reflections for us over the next few weeks. Karenza is part of the Accessible Prophecy UK team. Art work is by Carolyn Higgins, another member of the team.

Over these Advent weeks, we will be following a similar pattern to the traditional Advent wreath – 5 candles, 5 opportunities to reflect on different parts of the story. What each of these candles represents tends to vary across theological and ecclesiastical traditions, but each representation offers a fresh moment to pause and connect with God. I encourage you to take these moments as we move through this season.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness… For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9 v 1 -7

“Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord…he will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land…The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf will be together, and a child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like cattle. An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. They will not harm or destroy each other on my entire holy mountain for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water.” Isaiah 11 v 1 – 9

In the Old Testament, there is an ongoing set of prophetic promises and revelations about the coming Messiah: where he would be born (Micah 5 v 2), what his early life would be like (Hosea 11 v 1), as well as many other prophecies borne out and fulfilled in the accounts of the New Testament. This mirrors much of the historical lineage of promises that we reflected on last week in terms of that first advent candle in the CofE tradition that acknowledges the patriarchs. However, we see this take on a new urgency with the prophets as they long for the coming Messiah, the one who will restore all things. The prophet Isaiah speaks in the above chapters of one who will reign with justice and righteousness, in a kingdom where the strong do not destroy the weak, but instead there is equality and love between them and oppression ceases. As the story of the people of God continues, the prophets continue to speak of this coming King, as well as attempting to call God’s people back to him. However, they witness the people of God splinter, be exiled, fall away, forget about what God has done for them, get distracted and ultimately, despite many returns and short-lived repentances, the story of the Old Testament ends with a period often termed the 400 years of silence. Just waiting. No Messiah in sight.

What must it have been like to be a person aware of the history, longing for the coming of the Messiah, but never seeing it realised? It reminds us of that oft cited line from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – where it is always winter, never Christmas. Those who lived in the darkness, as Isaiah puts it, but who did not see that great light. Those who saw the land repeatedly overrun by the great empires of the day, culminating in the Roman invasion.

How did the people cope? By the beginning of the New Testament, we see that some have retreated into the desert, some have turned to laws and religion and predictable patterns whilst finding others to blame, some have turned to human solutions, political ambition and violence in their ambition to overcome the darkness and oppression around them, whilst others have simply given up. I wonder where you see yourself in that. How do we respond when we are in these long periods of waiting? What disappointments are we carrying? Things you know have been promised, things you have prayed for and not yet seen. Are we one of the faithful remnant, waiting patiently and holding fast to what has been spoken, or have we found ourselves on a different path?

Advent is a time of hope and expectation, but it is also a time of lament and yearning. It is certainly a time of tension between the two – Christmas is coming but not yet. Jesus is coming but not yet. Even in our time, where we know how the prophecies were fulfilled in the birth of Christ, we also know that he has promised to return. There is an ancient Antiphon used during Advent – O Oriens – that says: “O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” This prayer speaks to the tension we all live in. The now and the not yet. The recognising what has come and longing for what is still to come. Jesus has come and will come again. The Kingdom is here, but is coming more. His justice and righteousness have been established, but one day will be brought to completion.

And so, we are waiting for him to come again. We yearn and pray into the night for his return. We wait with our oil burning, with hearts prepared for Emmanuel to return and set things right. One day, he will wipe away every tear, even though that hasn’t happened fully yet. What a promise to hold on to! But also, when we look at our lives and the world around us, what impatience and grief we can feel that it hasn’t happened yet. We have areas and periods of our lives where we are waiting for certain things -some small, others the deepest desires of our hearts. And we know from Proverbs 13 that hope delayed makes the heart sick. Living with disappointment, asking God how much longer, puts us in great company with all those throughout the Bible and throughout history who receive the promises of God, faithfully believing that they will come to pass, and yet for whom most, if not all, of their lives are spent waiting to see them fulfilled.

I encourage you this Advent to lean into the discomfort of this tension. To celebrate and thank God for all he has done, the promises and words you have seen him fulfil; to celebrate Jesus and make way for more of what he has done and is doing in your life and the lives of those around you. Desire fulfilled is a tree of life. But also, to be honest with God about areas of pain and disappointment, to lament and weep and yearn, to ask God to strengthen your hope and to heal your heart as you wait for Him. Spend some time, listening to the carol, reading the Scriptures, considering the image – whatever works for you- asking God to show those places of disappointment and let Him meet you. And remember that you are joined by the whole of history—patriarchs, prophets and ordinary people—who have longed for the arrival of Jesus into the world and into their lives. Let our cry this Advent be O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and let us be ready to receive him.

Advent Reflections

We are delighted to have Karenza Mahtani write a series of Advent reflections for us over the next few weeks. Karenza is part of the Accessible Prophecy UK team. Art work is by Carolyn Higgins, another member of the team.

Advent can often be simply a time to prepare for Christmas – buying too much food, writing cards, agonising over which present to buy that person who has everything. Each year it can pass us by without recognition, except by way of tiny open doors and hidden chocolate. However, Advent is a key point in the church calendar. It offers us all a vital time to pause and to reflect as we await the celebration day of the birth of Jesus. It is summed up in the Latin root of Advent – advenire – meaning ‘to come’. But Advent also shows us that we don’t need to race to December 25th. Instead, we are offered a profound time where we hope for, lament, wrestle, prepare, rejoice and thank God for sending us Jesus and we long for his return.

Over these Advent weeks, we will be following a similar pattern to the traditional Advent wreath – 5 candles, 5 opportunities to reflect on different parts of the story. What each of these candles represents tends to vary across theological and ecclesiastical traditions, but each representation offers a fresh moment to pause and connect with God. I encourage you to take these moments as we move through this season.

Advent Reflection 1: Great is Your Faithfulness!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1 v 1-5

Our season of Advent usually lasts around four weeks. However, when we understand the breadth of time that Advent truly represents, we begin to see that the whole of history leading up to the birth of Jesus was advent – a story waiting for the main character to arrive. From the very beginning, we see that Jesus resides above and within the fabric of creation, as we read in this famous passage from John 1. Moreover, as this week often is given to represent the Patriarchs and the promises made to those who went before Jesus, we see that Jesus has always been the plan – even as far back as Genesis 3, where God curses the serpent by declaring there will be “hostility… between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (v 15). This moment sets up the rest of the story of God’s redeeming work towards mankind. Jesus is promised, as one who will crush the Enemy, defeat sin and return mankind to perfect relationship with God, as it was intended.

Moreover, as the story proceeds, God continues to promise the revelation of Jesus to specific individuals along the way. Maybe take some time to read through these stories of promises today. To Abraham, he promises that through his offspring, all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12 v 3 & Genesis 22 v 18), a promise that is repeated as Isaac is born. To Jacob, this promise continues through Balaam’s Third Oracle: “I see him, but not now: I perceive him, but not near. A star will come from Jacob, and a sceptre will arise from Israel” (Numbers 24 v 17). Similarly, Jacob continues these promises to Judah in his last words, when he says “The sceptre will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him” (Genesis 49 v 10). Later on, we see the continuation of this when Nathan prophesies to David: “When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant…and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7 v 12 -13).

In this way, throughout the Old Testament, God continues to reveal his plan to redeem mankind and promises various individuals that it is through their family that he will bring about his Kingdom and the restoration of all things. This is reflected in the Antiphon – O Radix Jesse: “O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples, before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.” Each generation held onto the promise God had made, passing it down to those that came after despite not seeing its fulfilment. However, we also see through both the Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, written for a Jewish audience who were familiar with the promises to the Patriarchs, but also further back into Genesis 11 and 5, that not only does God fulfil his promises to these specific individuals – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David – but that he also bestows honour and brings redemption. For example, Ruth, a foreign woman who refused to desert her mother-in-law when disaster struck, is honoured as the one who gave birth to Obed, father of Jesse, father to David. Moreover, we see in this genealogy that Jesus is descended from the line of Tamar who – as we read in Genesis 38 – was the daughter-in-law of Judah, yet was impregnated by him and subsequently gave birth to Perez (an ancestor of Jesus). Similarly, usually connected with David’s great sins of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11), Bathsheba also receives mention within the genealogy, not only as the mother of Solomon, but also as the wife of Uriah – her rightful husband. Despite the sins of David, God still uses his descendent born of Bathsheba, to redeem not just the whole world, but also to a certain extent the misdeeds of his own family. Within these we see that God’s promises and faithfulness remain true regardless of the ethical or sexual purity of people’s behaviour. In this same way, we see after David, a long line of kings from whom Jesus is descended through Joseph, some of whom pleased the Lord, such as Josiah, many of whom failed and led the people of God astray to great destruction.

Despite all of this, the promises of God hold true. No matter the sin – individual and collective – or the background or circumstances of those involved in Jesus’ family history, God still works through this to redeem and restore mankind, but also those who came before him. Whilst on the one hand, the actions of many within this genealogy would seem utterly disqualifying, all of them are given a clear mention in being part of fulfilling the promises of God through the birth of Jesus.

As we begin Advent this week, take some time to reflect on some of the promises God has made to you. Maybe make a physical list or simply ask God to bring them to mind. Use the song below or the image to help you focus and process some of the things that God raises with you during this time. Be encouraged that God works through hundreds of years and some of the worst evil that humanity can produce and still brings promises to fulfilment. Allow yourself to rest in the promise in Isaiah 55 that God’s words do not return to him empty – they are fulfilled, even if this happens on a different time scale, in a different way or through surprising people or circumstances, beyond what we were expecting. Moreover, ask God for fresh hope and faith to pray these promises to fulfilment, and for the eyes to see where he is already moving in your life and the lives of those around you. Or you could spend some time looking through the promises God makes and fulfils across the Bible to various people, as we have done briefly above. Thank him for his faithfulness and goodness to us, despite the ways that we often fall short and forget what he has done before.

I pray that in this first week of Advent, you would be blessed by the testimony of the Patriarchs and by the God who keeps his promises.