Welcome to Advent. For those of you who need a refresher, Advent is the season that starts on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas. Four Sundays; three full weeks plus whatever fraction of a week is necessary to take us to Christmas. This is a season of waiting; we remember the Jews who waited for two thousand plus years for Christ to come as we wait for Christ to come again.
To kick things off, let me take you back to where it all began. Egypt.
Some scholars argue that the Bible actually begins with Exodus. They may have a point. Genesis gives us some backstory; it tells us how men came to dwell in the region known as the Promised Land and how one man, Abraham, grew into a large family.
Where is Israel at this point? They are in Egypt.
Egypt is the reigning superpower of the day. Israel is merely a slave state, supplying free labor for all of Egypt’s grandiose building projects.
They came to Egypt initially because one of their children, Joseph, got himself sold into slavery there and through a bizarre series of circumstances wound up as the prime minister. There he headed up a massive building campaign; when famine later wracked the Middle East, Egypt had more than enough grain for themselves and all the other Middle Eastern nations thanks to Joseph’s efforts. Jacob, the reigning patriarch at that time, heard that there was grain in Egypt and after much agonizing left his home in the Promised Land with his family and traveled to Egypt.
While in Egypt, the Israelites grew from a family into a nation. A new Pharaoh came to power who did not know anything about Joseph and did not care to learn. He felt threatened by Israel’s incessant growth and so he enslaved them and took great pains to make their lives as miserable as possible.
So the Israelites did nothing all day except make bricks. And when things got bad enough, Pharaoh gave the order that they were to make just as many bricks as before but they had to go out and fetch their own straw. Just to make their lives miserable.
How did we get here?
It all started with Adam and Eve. They ate some fruit they weren’t supposed to eat.
Just one generation later, Cain killed his brother Abel.
From there, it was all downhill. Just a few generations after Cain came Lamech, who famously declared that “If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:24) Already things have gotten ten times worse than they ever were in Cain’s day.
In Noah’s day the world had gotten so bad that God wanted to destroy the whole thing. But he saved Noah and his family.
A couple of generations later some men went east and found a spot and started building a city with a tower. They sought to build a tower that would reach the heavens. Why? To make a name for themselves. So their own name would reach the heavens. They wanted to raise their own name up in opposition to the name of God.
All of civilization was now opposed to God.
And what was this tower made of? Bricks.
If there is one thing the Israelites knew all about at this point, it was bricks. They were making them all day long.
So what happened? The Israelites cried out to God.
And God heard.
More than that, He did something.
What? You’ll see. Next time.