The Advent Collective – 22 December 2020

A daily reflection drawing from Advent Bible passages – to help us grow as we live out our faith in the everyday moments of life.

Hi! I’m Joel and I’m part of the student Church here at STC. I hope you’ve been enjoying the Advent Collective as much as I have so far.

My Dad and my Uncle are huge Manchester United fans. Thankfully I saw the light early enough and adopted Wednesday as my team, but I do still have a soft spot for Man Utd because of that. Anyway, we went to Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial a number of years back, he’s a former Manchester United player if football isn’t your forte! It turned out that our seats for that game were right in front of the VIP section. As we turned around and realised this, I saw my hero Edwin Van Der Sar – the 6 foot 5, no nonsense, legendary Dutch goalkeeper – a matter of inches away from me. I was so excited to see him and my Dad encouraged me to go up to him and get an autograph (that would be a selfie in 2020 – I don’t know who let the selfie replace the autograph but I’m fuming about it – but that’s not the point of this story!) I felt like I couldn’t because he was literally Edwin Van Der Sar! It was a bizarre mixture of emotions of pure joy but also a sense of awe that the man I watched every single week on TV playing for my football club was now stood right in front of me.

So what does Van Der Sar have to do with the Christmas story? He wasn’t there when Jesus was born, I’m sure of that. But if we look at Luke chapter 1, verses 38 to 45, we read about Elizabeth’s response to Mary’s arrival. For context here, the Angel Gabriel has already appeared to Mary to tell her that she will have a baby who will be called Jesus, the son of God, and that her relative Elizabeth is also pregnant despite her old age. When Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth seems to have a similar feeling to what I had when I saw Van Der Sar: a mixture of awe and joy. Look at verse 43: ‘But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’, Elizabeth says. She is clearly in awe of what God is doing, in awe of the fact that God has chosen to use her in this way. She feels unworthy. Yet in the very next verse – 44 – she says, ‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy’. A sense of joy so overpowering that the baby in her womb physically responded to it! Reverence, and joy. Two things which often seem incompatible – but two things that should be natural emotions in us when we are responding to what God is doing.

It’s not just the Christmas story in which we see this either. In Psalm 150, the final Psalm of the book, the Psalmist tells us to praise God with ‘the sounding of the trumpet’ in verse 3 – associated with the grandest and most solemn events. And then in verse 4 – ‘praise Him with tambourines and dancing’. Clearly a joyful celebration! Yet again praising God with reverence and with joy.

I know that I’ve not always felt like I can come to God with joy and reverence in my life. This can be because of things going on in life that just make us feel like joy is impossible! I’ve felt that a lot through 2020 especially. And sometimes life makes us feel like there is no need to be in awe of God, and we are distracted from his power, glory and beauty. If that is the same for you then I would really encourage you to spend time with God in prayer, in worship and through reading the Bible, and let’s hope that as we do that we will discover that sense of joy and reverence that we’ve seen in today’s passage this Christmastime!

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, thank you for who you are. Thank you for how you are so good to us that it is only appropriate to come to you with joy and reverence. Sorry for when we’ve forgotten that and have come to you with the wrong attitude. Please help us to worship you with joy and reverence this Christmas and please meet us wherever we are at so that does not feel out of our grasp. Thank you Lord. Amen.