T. F. Torrance on John 1:14

From his Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP, 2008), 61:

(ii) The meaning of ‘flesh’

“The Word was made flesh’ – but what is meant by flesh? John means that the Word fully participates in human nature and existence, for he became man in becoming flesh, true man and real man.  He was so truly man in the midst of mankind that it was not easy to recognize him as other than man or to distinguish him from other men.  He came to his own and his own received him not.  He became a particular man, Jesus, who stands among other men unsurpassed but unrecognized.  That is the way he became flesh, by becoming one particular man.  And yet this is the creator of all mankind, now himself become a man.

He has a lot more to say about John 1:14, and it is heavy! You might want to get the book!  😉

Advent 1 2008

Sermon Texts: Isaiah 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37

Today is the first Sunday of Advent – Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year in which Christians take time to reflect on the coming of Jesus Christ into the world – both in the past tense and in the future tense. It also marks a time of renewed hope and anticipation of Christ coming and the expectation that God will fulfill his promises to us both in the present and in the future.

There are four main themes highlighted during the season of Advent – Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. Each of these is related to different aspects of Jesus’ coming into the world. The promise of his coming brings hope and expectation to our hearts of God fulfilling his promises to us and setting things right in the world. Peace is state of our hearts and minds when we realize Christ has already come and will yet come once again into the world. Love is the reason he came into the world and the reason he will come again. Love is also our response toward God when we realize all is promises to us are “Yes and Amen” in Christ Jesus. Joy – inexpressible joy is what fills our hearts knowing Christ came to save us from our sins and will one day come again to set up his permanent Kingdom rule on the Earth.

Our texts for today reflect the theme of hope and expectation. Anticipation. Hope conveys the idea of expectation and waiting. The expectation and waiting are in relation to the coming of Christ. In Isaiah 64:1-9, we hope expressed even in the first verse when it reads “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.” Jerusalem had been sacked and its people hauled off into captivity in Babylon. The people had sinned against God and had broken the Covenant – God had finally had enough. He withdrew his covering over them and allowed them to become slaves to the Babylonians. With the Temple destroyed and the people broken and yearning for redemption the prayer in Isaiah 64 is cried out asking God to do something about their desperate situation. They admit they blew it and in many ways deserve God’s withdrawing from them – but even so they want to see God bring deliverance to their desperate situation. They recall God’s awesome power and deed from the past and want him to do them again.

Yet, at that point he hadn’t delivered them – so there is the sense of hope and expectation that God will save them and restore them and their nation.

Hope and expectation these have to do with looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment. I think hope and expectation is getting harder for us as Christians sometimes.

I like to say that we tend to live in an instant society – or a microwave society – we want things to happen quickly – we hate waiting in line and in general we hate waiting.

We are a society that tends to avoid suffering of any kind and when someone commits a crime or has some sort of moral failure, often folks want restoration quickly. Instead it needs to be realized that restoration takes time and effort on the part of those needing it and those helping with the restoration. Israel sinned against God and against his Covenant – they sinned against God’s prophets and against those who gladly do what is right. These kinds of things can’t be fixed overnight. Waiting is required – like being in the waiting room. But it isn’t a passive non-active waiting – rather it is an active waiting that is full of hope and expectation. God has promised to bring deliverance to those who wait on him.

Psalm 25:3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,

Psalm 65:5 You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,

Psalm 146:5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.
Isaiah 49:23c those who hope in me will not be disappointed.

Romans 5:5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

Advent is about waiting on the Lord for him to fulfill his promises. But it’s important to know that he does not always fulfill them as soon as we would like or even in the way we would like. Even so, we can expect that he will carry out his promises to completion. And in the case of Israel in Isaiah – he acted on behalf of those who waited for him. Anna the prophetess waited on the Lord in the Temple to see his Messiah and he acted on her behalf. It was the same with Simeon. In the fullness of time, God sent is Son into the World so that he might save the world and bring forth his kingdom rule into the world.

Isaiah engaged in prophetic intercession for God to rend the heavens and come down in holy visitation to make his mighty name known to the nations (v2) and to do “awesome things” (v3) on behalf of his people (v4). This is intercession similar to what we see in the Lord’s Prayer when Jesus prays “your kingdom come,” which Jesus teaches us to pray daily. God promises to act on behalf of those who wait for him (v4). God promises to do great things for those who wait for him. He can intervene in the events of human history so as to cause people to perform his will. Believers must wait patiently and confidently for God’s great interventions from heaven, even as they persevere in faith, hope, love and every good work that his grace makes possible.

In this season of Advent let’s wait upon the Lord with a sense of hopeful expectation that he will come and meet us in our need and bring about the fulfillment of his promises in our hearts and lives.

In the second passage, the one on Mark 13:27-34 – Jesus speaks of his second coming. I believe much of the things Jesus says here in Mark 13 were fulfilled when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70. However, there is still some things to be fulfilled such as Jesus’ second coming. Again, I think we find it hard to wait and I think many have struggled to keep their eyes fixed on the Lord and his return. Some have moved on with all that and have not paid much attention to the signs of Jesus coming again.

Some have been burned out by much of the hype around end-times. It seems like whenever a crisis breaks out somewhere in the world another book comes out to explain all the details about what is going on and how the end must surely be near. It is. But I think rather than wrestle with the ambiguities and uncertainties of the text we want to be certain about how it will all come about. I think too, many got all caught up in the Left Behind books and in the end found them to be wanting and began to see through the sham that lead to empty hopes empty pockets.

It’s hard to maintain true hope when it seems there is so much hype. If all these end-times teachers keep crying wolf too long, soon no one will listen. Then what? But Jesus warns about of some of this. What’s his warning? Keep watch! Stay awake and stay aware! Again, there goes the waiting theme! But it is not an empty waiting – is it a waiting that involves Watching, which means Jesus wants us to be in constant readiness, to be on the alert. Why? Because the day and the hour is unknown and we can’t be sure when the Lord will return – but we can be ready and expectant!

I think of what it was like when I was a child and knew Christmas was coming. Gosh, I could hardly stand the wait. Kids just get so excited about Christmas, the wating, the anticipation, the expectation, they can often hardly stand the tension. Are we like this today in reference to the coming of Jesus – or have we “grown up”? Is there less excitement about the coming of Jesus? Perhaps during the Advent season we can allow God to restore in us a sense of expectation and anticipation about Jesus coming into the world once again.

During this season of Advent, let’s allow our hearts to be full of expectation, awe, and wonder at the soon and coming return of Jesus Christ once again into the world – then all will be right and as it should be. Let us wait in hope for the Lord to fulfill his promises and bring about his purposes in our lives and in the world.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

do you know, to what, they refer?

Okay, fine.   No one has responded so here goes.

We sing the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas” before Christmas but in actuality it refers to the 12 days following Christmas day (between Dec 25th and Jan 6th) to the beginning of Ephiphany.  The twelfth day is believed (?) to been when the Magi visited the baby Jesus in Bethleham and gave him their gifts of gold, incense and murrh. 

This also means that in the Christian year, Christmas is not the time before Dec 25th but the time after it.

The time before Dec 25th is known as Advent, the time Christians take to reflect upon the coming of Christ.  Then, from Dec 25th to Jan 5th Christimas is celebrated, thus the Twelve Days of Christimas my true love gave to me…..  There is even the whole question of singing Christimas carols before Dec 25th.  Some find it odd to sing, Joy to the World, the Lord has come… before he has come (meaning before Dec 25th).  This might be getting a little picky but that’s how some see it, so instead they sing Advent songs such as “Come Thou Font, Come thou King,” or “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” for example.

Advent Themes

So far it seems to me there isn’t really one consistent stream of thought on what the four themes of Advent are or how to express them.  If I am wrong let me know.  So far, I have determined that at least (as far as the advent wreath goes, the four candles are: hope, peace, love, joy.   But I know others speak of expectation, and other themes. 

I did not grow up celebrating it or practicing it so I don’t know much about it and am teaching myself. 

If you know of either a set theme for advent or something related let me know.  Thanks.