What does the word “ADVENT” mean any who? These are some of the definitions given in thefreedictionary.com:
1. The coming or arrival, especially of something important: the advent of the computer.
a. The liturgical period preceding Christmas, beginning in Western churches on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and in Eastern churches in mid-November, and is observed by many Christians as a season of prayer, fasting and penitence.
b. Christianity the coming of Jesus at the Incarnation.
c. Christianity See Second Coming.
It also says that “ADVENT” is “an arrival or coming, esp one that is awaited [from the Latin ‘adventus’, from ‘advenir’, from ‘ad’ -to and ‘venir’- to come].”
The Advent Season is an exciting time. It is a time of mystery, intrigue and ADVENTURE. During the time of Jesus’ birth, Old Testament prophesy was being fulfilled right before to people’s eyes. Some had an inkling of what was happening, while others refused to believe it for fear of losing their control over the people they had control over. Try as they might, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies would not be thwarted. And that is why the first purple candle Christians light on the Advent Wreath is known as the Prophesy Candle. The first week is devoted to meditating on Jesus being the fulfillment of God’s promise to save His people from sin. His promise can be traced as far back as when sin first entered the world. God had always had a plan to reconcile mankind to Himself. Genesis 3:14-15 tells us this: “Then the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” If any one of us were to imagine what would come next, many of us would have Jesus the Mighty Warrior riding His white steed, in front of hundreds of angels, crushing all the evil ones to oblivion. But, it didn’t happen that way.
Think for a moment. What would you say is your favorite animal? It may be an animal that you will never have, but you are still drawn to them. Some of us are dog lovers. Others are cat lovers. Many are bird watchers. As for me, I am a “softy” when it comes to all animals (I have a bird-feeder and a squirrel-feeder). But, I have to say, donkeys hold a special place in my heart. I have never met a donkey I did not like. I know that some say they are very stubborn. But, just as God does with us, He uses the donkey’s stubbornness and turns it into perseverance and a never-give-up attitude. Donkeys are called “beasts of burden” because they are able to carry a lot of stuff on their backs. The donkeys I have met are gentle and very friendly and love to eat apples from my hand and they enjoy being pet and talked to. There’s one donkey I know by name. His name is Doobie and he resides at Swedish Hill Winery, in Romulus, New York (the Finger Lakes Region). I think we have seen each other two or three times. After the first time we met, I could almost swear the he recognized me the next time. He would “HEE-HAW” and look straight at me. He knew I was a softy when it came to animals, and he knew I had an apple with his name on it. When we visited for awhile and I started to walk away, he would “HEE-HAW” as if to say, “Don’t go! Please stay awhile longer.” Doobie is such a gentle soul, just like other donkeys I have met. Every donkey I met would come to the fence to say, “HEE-HAW“. How could anyone resist their big, beautiful, soft eyes and mournful cry for attention? I know I can’t.
When we think of Jesus riding on a donkey, we think of Palm Sunday: “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’ This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: ‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (Matthew 21:1-5). [Also see Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19]. The Old Testament Prophesy is found in Zechariah 9:9-10:
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your King comes to you,
Righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from River to the ends of the earth.”
Zechariah’s prophecy talks about Jesus’ “Triumphant Entry” into Jerusalem, a week before His death and Resurrection. Also, as some prophecies do, Zechariah foretells Christ’s Second Coming when He ends all war and reigns in Peace over all nations. Zechariah’s prophecy speaks to me about yet another time when Jesus rode a donkey. It was the time He was in Mary’s womb, and both Joseph and Mary obeyed God and started off on a mysterious and miraculous “Advent-ure.” Not knowing all the details, they trusted God in every step of their journey. It happened like this:
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1, 3-7).
Even though Luke does not state that Mary rode on a donkey, tradition and common sense says she most likely had to. Mary was nine-months pregnant and the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was ninety miles and would take four to six days. People back then traveled on foot or on animals or on carts. Mary and Joseph were poor, judging by the burnt offering they could afford when they took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised (“a pair of doves or two young pigeons” -Luke 2:24). Considering all this, Mary most likely traveled in the least expensive way – by donkey. Whenever I see a donkey, I picture Mary with Jesus in her womb, riding one of these gentle creatures, with Joseph guiding him during the Christmastime. It always gives me “goose bumps” when I think of this Child not yet born, yet always existed (See John 1:1-5 and Colossians 1:15-20).
We were all meant to be animal lovers. Our “job” in God’s creation was to take care of the animals and the land which God so richly gave us (Genesis 1:29-31). And we were also to enjoy intimate fellowship with God our Maker. But, mankind’s desire to be our own God and know everything for ourselves, without God’s help, ruined it all. But, even before time began, God had a plan to get all things back to how He first created them to be. That plan was Jesus. Read one of Isaiah’s many prophesies concerning Christ the Child, yet the King of kings and Lord of lords:
“A shoot will come up from Jesse [David’s father]; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD – and He will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and lion and the yearling together; and a little Child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the water cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:1-9).
Dear Lord Jesus,
All of creation groans for Your return, to turn its bondage to decay to the glorious freedom we have in You. Jesus, You are our hope. And in this hope we are saved. Forgive me for the times I doubt, the times I am afraid that things will never change for the better. Keep my hope alive for the things I do not yet see. Help me to wait patiently for You. Thank You Jesus, the Creator of all things great and small. Thank You for the joy we receive from Your creation. Thank you for the many lessons animals teach us -lessons in working hard, lessons in loyalty and trust and unconditional love. Lord, help me to be faithful in caring for all your creation because I love the Creator most of all. Thank you Lord for donkeys.
In Your precious Name Jesus, I pray. Amen.
(The above prayer came from praying over Romans 8:19-25.)
All Creatures of Our God and King
By St. Francis of Assisi
(First, Fourth and Fifth Stanzas)
All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voices and with us sing
Alleluia, Alleluia! Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam, O praise Him, O praise Him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
And all ye men of tender heart, Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye, Alleluia! Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care, O praise Him, O praise Him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Let all things their Creator bless, And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him, Alleluia! Praise, praise the Father praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One, O praise Him, O praise Him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Amen.
There are many other Old Testament prophesies that point to Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior of the World. Here is a list of some of them with their fulfillment in the New Testament: Genesis 12:3 and 17:7 and Romans 9:5; Psalm 72:10 and Matthew 2:11; Isaiah 60:3, 3, 9 and Luke 2:4-6; Isaiah 40:3-5 and Matthew 3:1-3; Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 and Matthew 11:7-14; Psalm 69:8 and John 1:11 and 7:5; Isaiah 6:9-10 and Matthew 13:10-15 and Romans 1:3; Isaiah 53:4 and Matthew 8:16-17; Isaiah 9:1-2 and 42:1-3 and Matthew 4:13-16; Psalm 41:9 and Matthew 26:14-16 and Zechariah 11:12-13 AND Matthew 26:21-25; Jeremiah 18:1-4 and Matthew 27:9-12; Zechariah 13:7 and Matthew 26:31,56; Psalm 22 and Mark 15:25; Zechariah 12:10 and John 19:28; Isaiah 50:6 and Matthew 27:39-44; Isaiah 53:5 and John 3, Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12 and John 19:33-36; Psalm 16:10 and Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51; Psalm 110:10 and Matthew 22:44 and Hebrews 10:12-13; Daniel 2:44 and 7:14,27 and Micah 4:7 and Luke 1:33.
This Sunday is the Second Sunday in Advent. Along with the Prophecy Candle, another purple candle, known as the Bethlehem Candle, will be lit. The Bethlehem Candle is pointing us to Christ becoming a man in Bethlehem, Israel (See Micah 5:2 and Matthew 1:18-2:6). The “Advent-ure” continues!