Advent: The Short and Long of It
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:1-2“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:15-16
Two groups of pure worshippers, one, made up of poor indigenous Jews, and another, wealthy foreign Gentiles, were most responsive to the obscure birth of Emmanuel (God with us); one through the medium of a host of angels and another through God’s control of the Heavens, aided very possibly by Daniel’s evangelizing and then discipling Magi in Persia centuries before. It is the short and long of Advent faith and purpose. One group, the shepherds, responded immediately to what they saw and heard and in the same night acted immediately with joyful obedience. Another group was convinced of God’s messaging through nature and their knowledge of prophetic Scripture. Together they give examples and lessons to follow of the short and long of Advent in your life.
We are prompted by the Holy Spirit to respond immediately to hearing and then doing God’s Word in instances where the commitment is to moments and days. We also are prompted by the Holy Spirit to responding to obedience in the long direction, over the course of months and years. The Magi saw the sign in the heavens most likely while the shepherds were in the fields listening to their night sky concert and soon at the manger in Bethlehem, but the Magi were then a long, costly, and dangerous journey away. We do not know how long their journey took, but can only surmise from Herod’s slaughter of the infants two years and under in and around Bethlehem that their journey could be measured in months. Together with preparations and the journey itself the time could be as much as one and a half years; a strong example of total commitment regardless of time and inconvenience.
The Advent lesson for you in this Advent Season is how do you respond to the Savior’s call on your life in the immediate actions of today, and how do you respond in the long haul as you eagerly await the return of the Lord in the months and years before He suddenly appears? The shepherds saw, heard, and believed. They came immediately, worshipped and adored, and then proclaimed to all who would listen to their personal testimony. The Magi studied the Scriptures, saw the signs, were thoughtful of the truth, made preparations, and then with great courage set out on their long path of obedience which included many tests of faith along the way.
What is your immediate response to the Savior who came and lived among us? Then what is your plan and obedience for the longer haul of actively waiting for the Coming King? Your faith in this will be the determiner of what you will be doing in the moment when He comes like a thief in the night. It is not the time then to suddenly react to fill your empty lamp with oil; if it isn’t burning in that moment it is too late to find oil. What displays your shepherd’s faith today, and what evidences your long obedience in the right direction as you await His coming? Your faith must be of both types: short and long.
The shepherds had little to give other than their presence, their faith, and their witness; the Magi shared their wealth, which sustained the poor holy family in Egypt, and carried back their faith to Persia of which you will see its fruit only in eternity. I am sure it will amaze you. Do something today which comes out of your personal faith, and also make preparations and plans for the unknown time which remains before He comes in the flash of a lightening bolt brilliantly covering the whole earth as He welcomes His bride, each and every believer. There will be those left standing outside the closed door (Matthew 25); you can make sure this Advent you are among those inside celebrating.
“While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast, each of us cries, with thankful tongue, “Lord, why was I a guest?
“Why was I made to hear your voice, and enter while there’s room, when thousands made a dreadful choice, and rather starve than come?
(2nd and 3rd verse of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place, 1707)
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