Free Sample of our 2019 Advent Devotional

 
Christopher Ash | November 7th 2019

This year's Advent devotional is called Repeat the Sounding Joy and we want to give you a sneak peek of the first day! In this Advent journey through Luke 1 – 2, Christopher Ash brings these familiar passages to life with fresh insight, colour and depth. Keep reading to find out more...

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Repeat the Sounding Joy

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24 Advent readings that bring the joy of Christmas to life

A Reassuring Certainty

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1 v 1-4

“Certainty” is a great word. Yet certainty is certainly hard to find. 

In recent days I have come across reports of two general elections, in Sweden and Brazil, through different newsfeeds, newspapers or TV channels. It is astonishing what very different stories these sources tell, depending on the particular angle with which each wants to spin their account. Maybe you share my frustration. You want to know what actually happened, with fair reporting and balanced assessment, but somehow everyone has their own spin on things, and you flounder in a world of fake news and post-truth (as it has been called by the Oxford English Dictionary). If only, you say, I could find something really and certainly true.

But then, at other times we enjoy living in a fantasy world. There’s long been an appeal to losing ourselves in a good fictional story. Now technology means we can even play a part in such a story, and walk around as an avatar in a virtual world, choosing what type of creature we are, what we wear, what powers we want to have, how we behave, what we say—and all without any real-world consequences. No wonder it’s attractive.

And, to be honest, the Christmas season can feel a bit like that: a happy, cosy make-believe world of santas and elves and reindeer and The Snowman and The Polar Express—all enjoyed without even having to feel cold. Plenty of people think Christmas is a sugary fiction to make us feel better in the middle of winter—a form of extended escapism and “retail therapy”.

But it’s not. At least, the Bible’s Christmas isn’t. Before telling us the story, Luke carefully shows us that what he is about to say is TRUE. Really true—True with a capital “T”. Lots of people have written accounts of it all. Luke calls these “the things that have been fulfilled among us” because everything he’s going to say is a fulfilment—a filling full—of what we call the Old Testament. These things didn’t happen out of nowhere. The Old Testament has shadows and outlines of what would happen, and especially of who would come. The story Luke tells shows how Jesus fills those outlines full. Here we will find certainty. 

God's message is certain, solid, reliable, true. You can rest your life on it.

The stories have come to Luke from “those who from the first were eyewitnesses” (v 2). They were there; they saw, they heard, they touched these things. And they were “servants of the word”; that means they didn’t make it up to suit themselves; the word was the master, and they were its servants—or perhaps we should say his servants. The apostle John writes about “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched” (1 John 1 v 1). Here we will find certainty. 

Luke has very “carefully investigated everything” right from “the beginning” (Luke 1 v 3). And now he has written an “orderly account” for a man called Theophilus (which means something like “friend of God”). The reason Luke has written is so that Theophilus—and now we too—can “know the certainty” about these things (v 4). Rock-solid reliable, True, certain. Escapism is alright, so long as we know that’s what it is. Two of my favourite Christmas movies are Miracle on 34th Street and The Preacher’s Wife. They’re wonderful. But they’re not remotely true.

Jesus Christ is not like Santa Claus. One day each one of us will come face to face with truth, face to face with Jesus. When we die, or when Jesus returns, it will be no good trying to escape into a fictional world; it won’t pass to say, “But I like to think…” this or that about God and about Jesus. That will be a great day, but perhaps also a frightening one. Luke tells us the truth now so that we can be ready to meet with truth then. 

So ask yourself: What areas of my life are so painful that I take refuge in fantasy? What doubts cloud my contentment in the truth of Jesus? Meditate today on the sureness of the truth as it is in Christ. Thank God that his message is certain, solid, reliable, true. You can rest your life on it. How wonderful to find certainty!

Sing

Tell me the old, old story

Of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and his glory,

Of Jesus and his love:

Tell me the story simply,

As to a little child,

For I am weak and weary,

And helpless and defiled.

(Katherine Hankey, 1834-1911)

Pray

Blessed Lord, who has caused all the Bible to be written for our learning, we thank you that the story we hear from Luke is true and safe and secure, and we can rest our lives and our eternal destinies upon the message we hear in it. Grant that, as we meditate quietly on this old, old story, our hearts may be comforted by the solid certainty that these things are true. May we know in some fresh way this Advent the comfort of your holy word, and embrace and hold it fast in our hearts and minds. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

To get your own copy of Repeat the Sounding Joy, click here

Christopher Ash

Christopher Ash has been a pastor, and is now an author and writer-in-residence at Tyndale House, Cambridge. He was Director of the Proclamation Trust’s Cornhill Training Course from 2004-2015. He is married to Carolyn and they have four children and five grandchildren.

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