Advent and Christmas

Throughout history, people have used signs and symbols over and over again to communicate to like-minded people, but to hide it from outsiders. An example from the 1. Century is the fish mark used by Christians (ichthys), with which they secretly indicated their attachment to Christ. As many of them were persecuted or even killed, they held their meetings in the catacombs and other secret places. To mark the way there, fish signs were drawn on the walls. That had not aroused suspicion because Christians were not the first to use the fish sign - pagans already used it as a symbol of their gods and goddesses.

Many years after the law was established by Moses (including the Sabbath), God gave a new drawing to all human beings - the birth of His Son, Jesus, made man, Jesus. The Gospel of Luke reports:

And you have to sign: You will find the child wrapped in diapers and lying in a crib. And immediately there was with the angel the multitude of the heavenly hosts, who praised God and said: Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among the people of his pleasure (Luke 2,12-14).

The birth of Jesus is a powerful, enduring sign of everything that includes the Christ event: its incarnation, its life, its death, its resurrection and ascension to the salvation of all humanity. Like all signs it indicates the direction; it points back (and reminds us of the promises and acts of God in the past) and forward (to show what Jesus will still fulfill through the Holy Spirit). Luke's account continues with a section of the gospel story often told after Christmas during the Epiphany festival:

And behold, a man was in Jerusalem, by the name of Simeon; and this man was pious and God-fearing, waiting for the comfort of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was with him. And he had been given a word by the Holy Ghost that he should not see death, for he had seen before the Christ of the Lord. And he came to the temple at the suggestion of the Spirit. And when the parents brought the child Jesus into the temple to do with him, as is the custom of the law, he took him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Lord, now you are leaving your servant in peace, as you said; for my eyes have seen your Savior, whom thou hast prepared before all peoples, a light, to enlighten the Gentiles, and for the price of thy people Israel. And his father and his mother wondered what was said of him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, to his mother: Behold, this is set to fall and rise up for many in Israel, and to a sign that is contradicted - and also through thy soul a sword will pierce -, to many hearts thoughts become apparent (Luke 2,25-35).

As Christians, most of us do not need signs and symbols to keep our meeting places a secret. This is a great blessing and our prayers are with those who live in dire conditions. Whatever the circumstances, all Christians know that Jesus rose from the dead and our Heavenly Father draws all people in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. That's why we have a lot to celebrate - and should do so in the coming Advent and Christmas season.

by Joseph Tkach


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