Read Luke 1:1-4
Up and down Britain children and adults are preparing to open Door 1 of their Advent Calendar.
For many, the Advent Calendar is the sign that Advent really has begun and the season running up to Christmas has truly started. It’s not the Christmas markets nor the sparkling lights. Not the Cinnamon smells nor the Gingerbread lattes. Not even the Cliff Richard songs! Important as these trimmings of the season are, it’s the simple act of opening a small cardboard door on a humble Advent Calendar that reminds most people that Advent is here. A calendar.
Calendars have always been important when it comes to Advent, not just for looking forward (as in today’s Advent Calendars) but importantly to help us to look back and remember that the Advent stories aren’t just make-believe.
The author Luke, who wrote The Gospel of Luke uses a word-calendar to root the story of Jesus in history. Before he does so he begins his account (in Luke 1:1-4) by explaining that the stories have been ‘handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses’ and that he has ‘carefully investigated everything from the beginning‘ in order to produce ‘an orderly account.’ Then in chapter 2 as he begins to describe the birth of Jesus, he uses a word-calendar. Here’s what he says:
‘In those days Caesar Augusts issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria).’
Through these words Luke is helping his readers flick back a number of years through the pages of history and place the birth of Jesus clearly on the human calendar. He wants us to know that Jesus was born during the reign of the first Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who ruled from 27BC to14AD, and more particularly during the leadership of the Syrian Governor Quirinius. The census referred to may well be the census of 6AD referred to by Jewish historian Josephus, or possibly a slightly earlier one. As well as Luke’s calendar there’s also good evidence outside the bible for the existence of Jesus (from Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud and Lucian), all rooting him in the history of this period. In these days when increasing numbers are questioning whether there was ever a historical character called ‘Jesus’, calendars like that produced by Luke are important. They give us confidence as we consider the veracity of Luke’s accounts and these ancient Advent stories, and encourage us to consider how the same God who impacted lives in the past can do the same today.
So as we journey through Advent over the coming weeks and discover how God was at work preparing people for the coming of Christ, be open to these old stories impacting your life and those you influence. God worked powerfully 2000 years ago at the first Advent, but his work is not yet finished! He longs to come again. To you and to many. Are you ready?
ACTION: Do you have an Advent Calendar? If not, get one or make one as a simple means of helping you get yourself ready for Christmas. Is there one other practical thing you can do to help you be better ready to meet with Christ this Advent season? Take a notebook and write it down.
PRAY: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you put into practice the one thing you wrote down. Pray that as well as looking ahead to Christmas with excitement you will look back at the Advent stories in these coming weeks with fresh wonder and joy, making you ever more ready for Christ to come.