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Advent Week 2

Faith (the Bethlehem candle)


Steven P. Wickstrom

all Scriptures quoted from the ESV

“Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.” - Martin Luther

“True faith is never found alone; it is always accompanied by expectation. The man who believes the promises of God expects to see them fulfilled.” - A.W. Tozer

“Faith simply means believing that something is true, and then committing our lives to it.” - Billy Graham

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38)

The color of the 2nd week of Advent is purple. In the Protestant religion this represents royalty - the coming king. In the Catholic religion this represents repentence and fasting. The candel is purple in color as well.The theme for the 2nd week of Advent, faith, comes from Luke 1:38, where the angels announced to Mary the message that she would miraculously give birth to the Messiah. Mary, like other Israelites, lived in the hope that God’s promise of a Messiah would come to pass soon. It came as a complete surprise, though, that she would be the one God chose to bring the prophecies to pass. God chose an ordinary girl to birth an extraordinary baby into the world.

Mary exercised great faith when she said yes to God. Although she wasn’t expecting to be the bearer of the Messiah, she answered the call of God on her life.

But what exactly is faith? How does the Bible define faith? Despite the many books on faith and many definitions, people still wonder what it is. In the Bible, faith is more than just positive thinking. Instead, Biblical peace means completeness or wholeness, pointing to the presence of something else.

Faith in the Old Testament

No word directly translates as “faith” in the Old Testament. However, the Hebrew masculine noun aman (אמן) (Strong’s H530) is understood in English to mean “faithful” or “reliable.” But it is often also translated as “faithfulness.”1 (When used as an adverb, אמן becomes amen, the liturgical ending to a prayer.) The classic use of aman is in Habakkuk 2:4, which translates as, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” Aman is often translated as “faithful” or “faithfulness,” as in Deuteronomy 32:4B, which says, “A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” The word aman conveys a sense of integrity, trustworthiness, and dependability. Thus “faith,” in the Old Testament understanding of the concept, is more of a lifestyle that incorporates the concept of belief. Old Testament faith involves accepting what God says is valid and has the added sense of acting in response with trust and obedience.2 Abraham is the classic case-in-point of faith in action. Abraham not only trusted God but believed what God said would come true.

Even though there is no word for “faith,” there are many examples of faith in action in the Old Testament. For instance, Noah built an Ark as commanded by God in faith that the flood God predicted would happen (which it did). Likewise, when Jehoshaphat was overwhelmed by enemy forces, he had faith that God would save the day. Hebrews chapter 11 gives many other examples of people in the Old Testament who lived by faith.

Faith in the New Testament

In the Greek New Testament, the primary word for faith is “πίστις - pistis” (Strong’s G4102). The term has a variety of meanings depending upon the context of the sentence. Pistis is interpreted as faith, belief, trust, confidence, fidelity, or faithfulness. What is faith? Faith is a firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, and integrity based on fact. There is no uncertainty when it comes to faith. If there is uncertainty, it is not based on fact and is not faith. Uncertainty and doubt are the opposite of faith.

2 Corinthians 5:5 states, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” What we see is not always authentic or accurate. For example, a mirage is an illusion caused by atmospheric conditions. Our perception in/of life does the same thing. Perception is not reality. Our perceptions tend to be wrong far more than we think. It is easy to focus on the wrong things as we walk through life. For that reason, we must walk by faith. Faith is rooted in fact, based on and in God’s word.

Faith in Advent

Mary’s faith was not haphazard but established on the foundation of fact. The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would come. The Messiah’s coming was, therefore, a fact. It had not yet happened, but it would. The angel told Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah. The angel said it, and therefore it was a fact. It had not yet happened, but it would. Mary not only believed the scriptures, but she also believed the angel’s message. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). Mary operated in complete faith and obedience.

Joseph also based his life on faith. He had a difficult decision to make. He could end the relationship and save his reputation or protect Mary and take the humiliation upon himself. God then sent an angel to explain the situation to Joseph (see Matthew 1:18-25). “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him“ (Matthew 1:24). Joseph chose to act in faith and believed the angel’s message. Both Joseph and Mary acted in faith and obeyed God. In this second week of Advent, we light the Bethlehem candle, representing the faith of Mary and Joseph and their journey to the city of Bethlehem. Incidentally, in Hebrew, Bethlehem means “house of bread.” The Messiah, who would be the “bread of life,” was born in the “house of bread.”

We must also use faith in our relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” The message of the 2nd week of Advent is that faith is essential to have a personal relationship with Jesus. First, however, we must choose to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. God holds out this offer of peace for us to receive, but we must reach out and take it. The message of Advent is that Jesus is coming. Receive him into your heart today.


[1] R.W.L. Moberley, “אמן” in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1997), 1:586.
[2] Ibid., 431.
[3] Spiros Zodhiates, A Scripture Index to the Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1992), 1162.

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