How can the synagogue help our Advent season?
Acts 13: 14
“From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.”
This is not the Antioch that they had been sent out from. The region was known as Galatia and Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in the cities and towns of this area.
What was happening on the Sabbath for Paul and his team?
- They went to the synagogue. It is what Jews did on the Sabbath, Jesus did it.
- The most important prayer of the meeting was the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Jesus prayed this prayer.
- Two main focuses of the meeting was: The Law, that no one could ultimately keep; and the Prophets who often spoke of a Messiah to come, which everyone hoped would be in their lifetime. How often the synagogues would speak of the one who was amongst them but they did not know, Jesus.
- The synagogue was not just a meeting, it was for community living. If you wanted to meet people and get to know them and know what was happening in the community, go to the synagogue. The reason for the rejection of Jesus in the synagogue of his hometown Nazareth was because they all knew he was the carpenter’s son. Everyone knew everyone and the Nazareth community knew Joseph and Mary, they knew their son Jesus, so they thought.
- The meeting would then have an invited speaker, preferably one who was the most intelligent there or perhaps would have some understanding on the readings that had been used. On that rejection day in Nazareth Jesus was invited to read the prophets, he read Isaiah 61 but then without invitation continued to expound the true Messiahship.
Why do I say all this? Why am I focusing on Jesus and not Paul?
- To show that Paul was doing what Jesus had done. He went to worship God. He went to focus on prayer and Scripture.
- Paul was called to the Jew first then the Gentile. Paul was a Jew. It was the ideal place to look for opportunities to teach these people and he took each one given to him.
- He and his team sat down. They became part of the congregation.
By the time of around AD50 the church had split from the synagogue and began a completely different path.
How can I encourage you today?
Starting with all that we have just read:
- Love your God with everything. This Advent make a new commitment of love to your Saviour. Say the Shema.
- Know that Jesus has fulfilled the Law, the requirement to please God, He has done that, you please Him. Celebrate this Advent the coming of Jesus that you are at peace with God.
- Jesus fulfils the Law but also He is who the Prophets spoke about. Know that Jesus will always be your hope and the hope for the world. This Advent tell him so.
- Know that Jesus wants you in community, in the church, but more importantly those who are yet to know Him. Where do these communities gather at Advent? Yes our church buildings will have their programmes, do all you can to take someone along to a carol service. But how about going into their community gatherings, a party, or some place you would never go perhaps asking the Advent Jesus to give you the opportunity to speak when invited within the conversation.
- This Advent, be there. Be where God wants you to be. Do what you should do. Go to church and sit down.