Advent is the season leading up to, including, and following the Christmas holiday in which the church together anticipates and prepares for Christ’s return while remembering his birth. Way better than Black Friday and after Christmas sales.
Advent and the story it celebrates provoke in us hope and a healthy amount of fear. The coming of the Messiah is weighty, both in His first incarnation and in His second return. In this short work of non-fiction, I explore the implications of the weight of advent and the glory that is revealed to the few that fear enough to see.
Searching for Biblical Treasures
Before Indiana Jones was fighting off the Nazis in search of the Holy Grail another archaeologist with a much less catchy name was in search of Biblical treasures. Lobegott Friedrich Constantin von Tischendorf was scouring the libraries of Italy, the relics of Egypt, and the desert dwellings of Sinai in search, not of Jesus’ final cup or the lost tablets of Moses, but of older and older manuscripts of the Scriptures that testify to the cup and the ark.
In 1844, Tischendorf made his first visit to the monastery that guards the base of the “mountain of God,” the traditional site of Mt. Sinai. One day, presumably while visiting with one of the monks in his study, Tischendorf spotted some parchments in the waste basket which were, according to the monk, “rubbish which was to be destroyed by burning it in the ovens of the monastery.”
Recognizing them as portions of the Septuagint the Old Testament translated into Greek Tischendorf secured permission to take them back to Leipzig where he published them a few years later as “Codex Frederico-Augustanus,” in honor of Frederick Augustus II, king of Saxony.
He went back several years later for more of that rubbish which sold so well in Saxony and was shown a bigger book, containing nearly the whole of the Old and New Testaments in Greek. Now we call this earliest copy of the New Testament the “Codex Sinaiticus.” The name helps us remember where we found it, I suppose, in the case we wanted to return it someday.
One thousand eight hundred and forty eight years prior, King Frederick’s namesake, the great Caesar himself, issued a decree that all the world (all the world that mattered to Rome, that is) should be registered. So a recently engaged couple Mary, with child, and Joseph, with fear and embarrassment made the week-long, eighty mile trek up to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral city and the city of King David, only to find lodging in a cave for animals. Welcome home Joseph.
In the field nearby, with all the animals that would rather sleep out under the stars than in that cave, shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. Shepherding was not the most popular of professions; they spent most of their time with dirty and dumb animals who need regular haircuts. (Perhaps a lazy shepherd was the one who found inspiration for the Chia Pet.)
They were not accustomed to visitors, especially at night, but when an angel of the Lord showed up, they were startled by more than just a pleasant surprise guest. “The glory of the Lord shone around them,” it says, “and they were filled with fear.” Recovering from bewilderment and in obedience to the command of this glow-in-the-dark visitor, the shepherds settled down and set aside their fear to receive instructions concerning the locale of this long-awaited but under-publicized royal birth.
“The king is wrapped up in a feeding trough in a nearby cave,” the angel informed them. At this, as if they were eavesdropping behind the clouds and just couldn’t keep silent any longer, the angel’s one million closest angel friends burst into song singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Wait. . . Peace for who? With whom he is “pleased”?
Is He pleased with me?
Read the rest of this short rumination on the history and meaning of Advent at http://goo.gl/mYhNK.
Kerby grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he learned to shoot ducks with his Dad, hit tennis balls with his friends, and beat video games with his brother Hunter. He moved on from there to complete a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University which he promptly put into use by studying Chinese and living in East Asia for two years…
Since 2005, Kerby has tried to hold on to his international experience by making friends and developing disciples among international college students in Oklahoma and now at the University of Texas at Austin. People often ask Kerby whether it is difficult for an Aggie to work at UT. He too frequently replies that “Jonah went to Nineveh and Daniel went to Babylon. At least I didn’t have to face any chains or hungry big fish.”