Late last month, I arose early to see the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter just before sunrise. Surprisingly, the “celestial observation shield”, otherwise known as clouds, were not present and the wondrous sight of these two bright lights shining above the horizon made me think of a similar, but even more spectacular set of conjunctions between them and Regulus. Two thousand years ago, the whole world was waiting in hopeful anticipation of a world leader that would bring world peace as prophesied by prophets from many regions. Around 3BC to 2BC, signs in the heavens were seen by many in the world as pertaining to the birth of this leader. In the Sacred Texts of Jesus, there are many prophecies related to the birth of Jesus, some of these were celestial in description. The Magi understood these as heavenly signs connected to some of these prophecies, handed down to them by their leader Daniel over five hundred years earlier.
Rather than worshipping the stars themselves, they used them as signs pointing to Jesus the Christ, and worshipped him instead. The very One who breathed those stars and planets into being, set them in motions in ages past knowing they would act as signs and markers for seasons put them into place to point to his own incarnation many, many years later.
“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising in the east, and have come to pay him homage.”
We find this heavenly play hidden within the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” if we take a slightly different view from the traditional “morning stars” being the angels annunciation to the shepherds on the hillside (which itself is equally valid):
“O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by…”
“..O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to all on earth”
Advent is the time of patient reflection, waiting for Christmas. During this time we reflect upon various themes for each week leading up to Christmas…
The hopes and dreams of a world which cries out under the strain we inflict upon it through our actions, inactions and injustices. We should remember that God is not a far off whispy white bearded being with no care for this world, but actually descended from the highest heavens to this earthly realm, being born as a baby and growing up as one of us, subjected to the injustices of this world and the weariness that life can bring to us. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. Let us hope for the coming Age, an age of the rule and reign of the Creator, where evil is destroyed and that which is good is brought to fullness of being once more.
In a world that is increasingly being torn apart by hatred, both racially and nationally; where war is seen as a means of making money and increasing shareholder dividends in arms manufacturing companies; where villages, towns, cities and nations are torn apart by politics and rose-tinted memories of yesteryear; where anxiety sits deeply in those on zero-hour contracts wondering if they’ll be able to pay for food, warmth and shelter; where religious factions rise up and seek to dominate others with their “truths” and empire building… May we remember that true peace is found in the Prince of Peace, who will one day make an end to all wars.
Think upon that which gives you profound joy, be it the giggling of a young child, the rising / setting sun, the starlit and moonlit night sky, playing or performing musical pieces, creating a work of art. All these are good gifts from our heavenly Father who loves to bestow upon the whole of creation things which are wholesome and good to engage with. Our deepest joy is found in doing what we were created to be. May we spend time pondering what we were made for and then engage with it wholeheartedly.
Every human being was made to be in relationship, with the Source of All Love, the Eternal Three-in-One. We were also made to be in relationship with each other. And, being embodied beings, made from the dust of the earth, we are in relationship with everything on this planet too, an interconnectedness which only now we’re starting to understand on a deeper level. Jesus gave us two commands: Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves. What joy, peace and hope we would experience if we made loving God, our neighbours and ourselves our mission in this life.
Hope, peace, joy and love – all these are fully met in the person of Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at the end of Advent.
However, Advent is not just about looking forward to celebrating the incarnation of the Son, which happened over 2000 years ago, it is also a time of looking forward to his Second Advent. This brings to a close the present Age, and begins the next with the restoration of the heavens and the earth to their original perfect state, with no death, suffering, pain or bloodshed. In the coming Age, hope will be fulfilled, endless joys abound, peace will reign on the earth and perfect love shared amongst the whole of creation.
The Apocalypse¹ of John (Revelation 21:1-6) gives us a tantalising glimpse of what lies in store for the whole of creation in the Age to come…
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea² was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
As a follower of the Risen and Ascended Master, Jesus the Anointed One, I work with this end in sight – resurrection and restoration, attempting to bring God’s message of peace, hope, joy and love, to those around me, whether human, non-human, visible or invisible.
May this time of preparation be one which is not crowded out by amassing or giving more stuff (at the expense of this planet’s resources), but one in which restraint, reflection and pondering the mystery of the One who came down in human form to set us free for life before as well as after death.
What do the following Jesus Deck cards mean to you at this time?
¹ Modern usage of the word “Apocalypse” has been tainted by images of destruction and fire, spurred on by films such as “Apocalypse Now” and a misconception that the end of the world is going to be a global destruction. Apocalypse means “revelation” and in the Biblical sense is the name ascribed to the last book of the New Testament, in which images of global chaos and crushing of humanity and the planet, where all seems darkest, are brought to an end by the coming of Jesus not as a baby this time, but all conquering hero, where good ultimately, finally and eternally overcomes evil, and all things which have flowed from God during the creation of the universe are returned once more. True justice flows, and evil is no more.
² The Sea in Biblical imagery here refers back to the primeval forces of chaos which were described in the Genesis account of the creation. Chaos, and the beast which rises up from it are defeated completely and are not to be found in the new heavens and earth (thankfully).