by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

Copyright © 2007 by Mark D. Roberts

See my collection of Advent resources here.


Advent is a season of waiting, waiting for Someone who was to come, waiting for Someone to come again. In Advent we watch and we wait in hope.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
         and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
         and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
         the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
         his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
         and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
         and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the LORD
shall renew their strength,
         they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:27






















This is an actual shepherd in the southern portion of Israel. (Actually, I've been informed by someone who lives in this region that this is actually an Arab shepherdess. Thanks, Alifa.)
Picture from

This is the first Sunday in Advent, when we light the first candle of the Advent wreath.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
  You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
  Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O LORD God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
    our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Psalm 80:1-7



























For Israel, waiting upon the Lord meant waiting for the day in which He would bring both judgment and salvation. God's judgment was often envisioned as fire. So we read in the prophet Zephaniah:

Therefore wait for me, says the LORD,
         for the day when I arise as a witness.
For my decision is to gather nations,
         to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation,
         all the heat of my anger;
for in the fire of my passion
         all the earth shall be consumed.
At that time I will change the speech of the peoples
         to a pure speech,
that all of them may call on the name of the LORD
         and serve him with one accord.
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
         my suppliants, my scattered ones,
         shall bring my offering.
On that day you shall not be put to shame
         because of all the deeds by which
you have rebelled against
for then I will remove from your midst
         your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
         in my holy mountain.
For I will leave in the midst of you
         a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD—
         the remnant of Israel;
they shall do no wrong
         and utter no lies,
nor shall a deceitful tongue
         be found in their mouths.
Then they will pasture and lie down,
         and no one shall make them afraid.
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
         shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
         O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
         he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
         you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
         do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
         a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
         he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
         as on a day of festival.

Zephaniah 3:8-18























Sunrise over Mt. Sinai

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
    For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

Psalm 130:5-8





















My daughter playing Christmas carols at a church Christmas event.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus
it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35:1-10






















A scene from the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Jeremiah 23:5-6





















Flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq. The more we feel the pain of war, the more we yearn for the peace on earth yet to come.

In days to come
the mountain of the LORD’S house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 2:2-4






















Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure
you get back.

Luke 6:38





















Sunset at Swan Lake, Montana

For I am about to create new heavens
            and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
            or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
            in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
            and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
            and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
            or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
            an infant that lives but a few days,
            or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
            and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
            they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
            they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
            and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their
They shall not labor in vain,
            or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD—
            and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
            while they are yet speaking I will hear.
he wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
            the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
            but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
            on all my holy mountain,
             says the LORD.

Isaiah 65:17-25





















Among my favorite Christmas ornaments, one of my daughter on her first Christmas (left), and my young son as an angel (center), and something one of my kids made in school (right). Christmas is for children in more ways than one.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. . . .
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
    the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-7






















A celebration of a Festival of Carols at Irvine Presbyterian Church. Based on the Lessons and Carols of Kings College, Cambridge, in England, this service features Scripture readings and lots of singing.

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
you that seek the LORD.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
but I blessed him and made him many.
For the LORD will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.
Listen to me, my people,
and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
my salvation has gone out
and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
and for my arm they hope. . . .
Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the LORD!
Awake, as in days of old,
the generations of long ago!
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep;
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to cross over?
So the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 51:1-5, 9-11






















Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
  Trust in the LORD, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

Psalm 37:1-9
























Even my dog enjoys watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with my son.

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

Isaiah 43:18-21





















The Ghost of Christmas Present, an original illustration by John Leech from the first edition of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (1843)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8





















Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14
























Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
            remove the evil of your doings
            from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
            learn to do good;
seek justice,
            rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
            plead for the widow.
Come now, let us argue it out,
            says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
            they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
            they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
            you shall eat the good of the land;
                    Isaiah 1:16-19





































An angel from the Glory of Christmas at the Crystal Cathedral

Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel.

Isaiah 44:23
























"Dream of St. Joseph" by Rembrandt, c. 1650

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

























"Annunciation" by Fra Angelico, 1450

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-37




















Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

James 1:17-18




























Today is my son's 15th birthday. He came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, 1992. The top picture was taken moments after he arrived home. What a marvelous Christmas present he was (and is still)! Plus,
he still wears hats.

For unto us a child is born;
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6
























On Christmas Eve Irvine Presbyterian Church now has two services for younger children and families. In years past we did one service that featured a living Nativity scene, using some family from the church that had a newborn infant. In 1994 we were chosen, since Kara was seven weeks old. We were pretty nervous about this, however, because Kara always got really cranky at just the time when the service was to be held. We feared that she would cry uncontrollably for the whole time. But, astoundingly, she not only didn't get cranky, but didn't make a peep! And from then on she was cured of evening crankiness. The little Lord Jesus, no crying she makes? Hmmm.

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4






















"Legend of St Francis: 13. Institution of the Crib at Greccio" by Giotto (1297-1300). This fresco commemorates one of the oldest living nativity scenes organized by St. Francis. I love the pictures of the folks singing carols.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, says the LORD,
you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
and like a bride you shall bind them on.

Isaiah 49:13-18























An actual manger (feed and water trough) found in an archeological site in Israel (Megiddo). This could well be the sort of "bed" that cradled the infant Jesus. Image courtesy of A great website!

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 2:7























The Nativity scene on my roof in Irvine. About one-half of life-sized.

O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
The LORD has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98