The Cathedral has set up an Advent Calendar, based on the 'Names of Jesus Advent Calendar' by Christian artist Lara Beeson. The theme of the calendar is ‘The Names of Jesus’, and we are producing a reflection for each day from 1st to 24th December. They can be seen below:

Day 1

Words are powerful things. They express who we are, how we feel and what we are thinking. When we are at our best, we think about what we want to say and the words follow. (When we are not at our best, sometimes the words burst out – expressing thoughts that are better not shared!) Our words express who we are.

So it is interesting that Jesus is described as the Word of God. Jesus was with God in the beginning when he spoke the world into being. In fact, it was through Jesus as the Word of God that the world was made (John 1:3). Jesus and God are one – so closely united that Jesus is the very Word of God. (You can find this in the very first verse of St John's Gospel, which is to be found in the New Testament. Alternatively, you can Google 'Gospel of John'.)

And as if that wasn't astonishing enough, Jesus, the Word of God, left Heaven one day and became human! "The Word became flesh and came to live among us" (John 1:14). Why would the Word, through which the world was created, become a person down here on earth with us?

He came so that we can become "children of God" (John 1:12).

Our sin had separated us from God but he loves us so much that he wanted to make it possible for us to have a relationship with him again – and not just any old relationship! He wanted to make us his children, and that could only happen through Jesus his Word. When Jesus died on the cross, he took the necessary rap for all the thoughtless, evil, negligent, damaging things that we do to ourselves and other people – and that dishonour God – and he did that so that we do not have to pay the price and can be forgiven. And that is not all. After three days in the tomb Jesus came back to life and broke the old rule that death has to be the end of us. Because he rose again and made us right with God, we can choose eternal life.

The Word became flesh so that you and I may be children of God forever in Heaven.

Day 2

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)

What sort of a sentence is that?! Even without the odd mixing of past and present tenses, “I am” seems like a strange sort of name. In fact, it sounds as if he has forgotten a word. But when Jesus calls himself “I am”, he has not missed out a word. He knows exactly what he is saying. He is saying that he is God. He is saying that he is not just Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth, but that he is actually God. He is everything that is!

“I am” was the name that God was known by in the Jewish scriptures (see Exodus 3:14) So when Jesus tells the Jews of his day, who knew their scriptures well, that he is “I am”, he knows full well that they will understand exactly what he is saying – that he is God.

So if the name of Jesus “I am” tells us that he is not just a man but also God, what does that mean? Does it matter?

It matters on every level, and goes some way towards explaining why the Jewish authorities found him an impossible challenge and sought to get rid of him. If Jesus is the God of their forefathers, the reason for the way the people live and worship, and he comes with the authority of their creator to tell them that they are getting it wrong and treating people corruptly, then that turns everything they know upside down!

It matters because God himself is the only person who can save us from sin and death, and here he is – the promised Saviour – come to suffer and die in our place to take the punishment for our sins so that he can justly forgive us. It is through this forgiveness that those who trust Jesus can have eternal life with him. So this matters a lot!

“I am” is a wonderful name for Jesus. It shows us that he is God, willing to die for us and ready to rise from the dead for us. What a great thing to remember this Advent as we prepare to celebrate God’s birth among us.

Day 3

“And the angel said, “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 called holy – the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

Most of us would not expect an angel of the Lord to appear in our living room, but this is exactly what happens to Mary. The angel is delivering some very special news – she is going to have a son. But Mary’s son is not going to be conceived in the normal way between a man and a woman, but by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. If she agrees, Mary is going to have this baby by God’s divine power, and because of this the baby will be holy, different, pure and perfect. He will grow up to be God’s promised King – the one who will save God’s people from their sins.

This is the King that God has been promising for over 1,000 years through the scriptures and the prophets of the Jewish people. A King whose kingdom will never end. A King descended from King David (the greatest King that Israel ever had) but who will be much, much greater. So great, in fact, that God refers to this promised King as his Son.

So who is he?

He is the one who speaks with the authority of God his Father.

He is the one who heals the sick, gives the blind sight and the deaf hearing. He is the one who turns water to wine, who commands the wind and the waves, and who raises the dead to life.

He is the one with the desire and the love and the power to forgive us.

He is Jesus, Son of God.

Day 4

Slaves are people who are trapped in a life of endless service to someone who has complete control of them. When Jesus was alive during the days of the Roman Empire, it was considered quite normal for households to keep slaves and treat them as unpaid servants for their entire lives. Slaves had no rights and very little chance of freedom. If they tried to escape they would be punished, even killed. We don’t like to think of it but there is still modern day slavery, although it is at least illegal today. Imagine being a slave.

In Jesus’ time, if a slave was lucky enough to be set free, it cost a lot of money. Somebody had to redeem them to pay a high price to set them free. Once that price was paid, they were ‘rescued’ and ‘delivered’.

Jesus is called Redeemer because he pays the highest of prices to set us free from slavery to our sins – some would say from slavery to our sin, the world and the devil. There are lots of verses in the Bible that spell this out.

"'For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you... I myself will help you', declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 41:13–14)

The people of God were trapped in their endless life of sin and couldn’t get free to get back to God. But God promises to redeem them himself.

Jesus is not just a teacher and healer. He is not just a good man of God in a white nightie and sandals. Jesus is a Redeemer who pays a price – the ultimate price of his life – to free a slave like me and you.

In him, we have redemption through his blood – the forgiveness of sins – in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:17).

So, we are no longer slaves to sin – and that is good news.

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