Week 12: God with Us

by Alys Tarr

Happy Advent! As you munch on your advent calendar chocolate this morning and start our week of bible readings in 1 Samuel and Revelation, allow me a few minutes to talk about the origins of this season.

The word ‘advent’ comes from the Latin adventus, meaning ‘coming’, which is a translation of the Greek word parousia; a word used 17 times in the New Testament to refer to the second coming of Christ. Originally a time of preparation for Christians getting baptised on the feast of  Epiphany in January, advent became tied to the coming of Christ by Roman Christians in the 6th century, but it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that advent became explicitly linked to the first coming of Christ as a baby, rather than anticipating the day when Christ would return in glory as judge of the whole earth.

What a neat way to tie in our readings in Revelation with the Christmas season we’re preparing for! Advent is traditionally a period of waiting and expectation; a feeling that should be all-too-familiar to us as Christians as we wait expectantly for  Jesus to return, not as a baby this time but as King of the whole earth. Revelation has been a difficult book to read, so enjoy Thursday and Friday as we finally reach the glories of chapter 21 and 22 which beautifully describe the perfection of what God has in store for his people. For me, the most beautiful picture that John paints for us of the new creation is how perfectly intimate our relationship with God will be:

 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)

 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:3)

When the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Israel in 1 Samuel 6, part of the reason for Israel’s rejoicing was that the Ark symbolised the presence and glory of God, which is why when the later temple was built in Jerusalem, the Ark was placed in the inner sanctuary where God dwelled. They’ll be no such temple in the New Jerusalem and we’ll have no need for symbols of God’s presence because God will dwell with us. We have a word for that: Emmanuel, God with us.

Here are some question for you to ponder this week:

  1. How are we preparing for Christ’s return?
  2. What does it mean for God to be with us now, in our current situation?
  3. Israel clamoured for a king because they wanted to be like the nations around them and find security in a mighty ruler. Where in our lives do we long for things which do not please God, either because of the supposed security they give us or because we want to fit in with those around us?