Archive for December 13th, 2009

14th MESSIANIC SYMBOL for the Advent Season: Olive Branch

December 13, 2009

DECEMBER 14: Micah 5:5a

And he will be their peace.

Many contemporary Christmas cards say something about peace. We think about peace at Christmas because of the song that the angels sang when they told the shepherds about Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

The Old Testament word for peace was shalom, which means “completeness” or “well-being.” Every day our news is full of reports of wars and conflicts and other terrible events. Sometimes we know personally someone whose home has burned or who has been robbed or who is sick with a life-threatening disease. Most Americans felt their sense of peace shattered after September 11, 2001, when thousands of people died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We wonder if terrorists will strike a new target where we live. We also are disturbed by conflicts in our interpersonal relationships. Where is the peace that God promised to bring through Jesus?

Our peace begins with peace with God. If we are not at peace with God, we will not experience the completeness or sense of well-being shalom brings. The Bible tells us that because of sin, we were actually God’s enemies (Colossians 1:21). But Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we could have peace with God once again. Many people cannot understand why they do not have peace in their lives. By accepting what Jesus did for us, we can have the inner peace He came to bring.

That inner peace comes after we make peace with God. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This kind of peace does not depend on the absence of bad things happening around us, but from the knowledge that God is in control and will take care of us. Jesus promised to give us peace in the midst of the world’s trouble.

We use an olive branch as the symbol for peace. Often the olive branch is pictured in the mouth of a dove. After the flood, Noah sent out a dove to see if the land had dried up. The first time the dove went out, it returned because it could not find a place to light. The second time the dove came back it had an olive branch in its mouth. Since then both the dove and the olive branch have been used as symbols of peace. In the story of Noah the dove and olive branch showed that God was continuing to love and to provide for Noah and his family.

Someday Jesus will return and end all wars and bring peace. In the meantime, He promises to give us peace with God that enables us to have an inner contentment in the midst of a troubled world.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heav’n’s all-gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heav’nly music floats
O’er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hov’ring wing.
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

For lo, the days are hast’ning on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heav’n and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)

Thank God that Jesus Christ is our peace—that He came to fill us with shalom—completeness.

Ask God to so fill us with His peace that people around us are attracted to the peace of God.

Christ our God, King of peace, grant us your peace,
establish for us your peace and forgive our sins.
For yours is the power, the glory,
the blessing and the might, for ever. Amen.

Coptic Blessing

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13th MESSIANIC SYMBOL for the Advent Season: Donkey

December 13, 2009

DECEMBER 13: Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly; O Daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey (NASB)

Zechariah tells the people of Jerusalem that their king, their Messiah, will come to them riding on a donkey. At the time Zechariah wrote this, common people used donkeys for transportation and to help them in their work. Kings rode on horses. It had not always been that way. The first kings of Israel rode on donkeys, but after the time of Solomon they started using horses.

For the people of Israel horses represented war and donkeys represented peace. By the time Jesus was born, the Jewish people were looking for a King who would free them from Roman rule. They expected this to happen through warfare. But God did not send His Son to bring political freedom. He came to bring freedom from bondage to sin and to establish peace with God.

The donkey not only represented peace; it was also a sign of humbleness. Jesus was not born in a palace, but in a lowly stable. He was born into a poor family and spent most of His time with the poor. No one would expect a king to live this way. Through His birth and up-bringing, Jesus identified with the poor and lived a life that enabled Him to understand the struggles that millions of people face every day.

Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus rode into Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. When they saw Him riding on a donkey, the people recognized this as a fulfillment of Zechariah’s words. That is why they cried, “Hosanna!” and threw palm branches and their coats on the road in front of Him. But they were still expecting their king to fight to free them from Roman rule; they did not understand that Jesus is a king of peace, not of war.

The donkey is often a part of the nativity scene because Mary may have ridden to Bethlehem on a donkey. Next time you see the donkey in a crèche, remember that the donkey symbolizes the humility of Jesus and the peace that He came to bring.

Good Christian men, rejoice,
With heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ is born today,
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today!

John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

Thank God for Jesus’ example of humility; and for the fact that Jesus came to earth bringing peace.

Ask God to help you to follow Jesus’ example and humbly serve Him and also serve some of the poor in the world.

O Lord Jesus, I will embrace you who become a little child for me. In my weakness I clasp you who became weak for me. A mere man, I embrace you who is God made man. You came a man as poor as I am, and you rode into Jerusalem seated on a humble donkey. I embrace you, O Lord, because your lowliness is my greatness, your weakness is my strength, your foolishness is my wisdom.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-1167)