It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
I consider the period from Thanksgiving until Christmas to be the most magical time of the year. If your home is like mine, you are putting up your Christmas tree with Christmas music playing in the background, baking cookies with the kids, and planning to make Christmas as special as you can with your loved ones.
This is also the time when many Christians follow Advent. The word, Advent, originates from the Latin word, Adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and it ends on Christmas Eve.
Advent juxtaposes the arrival of Jesus into the world, more than 2000 years ago, and the second arrival of Jesus that is yet to come. As the Lenten season is observed to prepare for Easter, Advent is observed in anticipation for Christmas.
As we look at the practice of Advent, it beckons our hearts to two disciplines: remembrance and waiting.
We need a Savior. No amount of self-help books can help what’s innately wrong with us. We need God to step in and help us see life the way he sees it.
Firstly, Advent invites us to remember. We call to memory the story of our redemption and how it all began in a manger with a couple who were still kids—scared and waiting on the arrival of the Savior of the world.
We remember that we are in desperate need for a Savior. We can’t help ourselves. We can’t fix our brokenness. We are bankrupt. We need a Savior. No amount of self-help books can help what’s innately wrong with us. We need God to step in and help us see life the way he sees it. It is at that moment—when we realize that we cannot do life without the help of God and we throw our hands in surrender and ask God to come and rescue us—we get overwhelmed with his grace and his mercy. It is at that moment when God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, reaches out to you and me and meets us where we are. This is the story of the gospel. As we read in 1 John 4:9-10, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” We live through Jesus. We thrive through Jesus. We become all that God has meant for us to be on this earth and in eternity through Jesus. We are reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around you and me. Everything in all of creation revolves around Jesus.
Advent can be a season where we can examine our hearts and see where we are with God and with man.
We remember that we are meant to live out our Christian life with keeping Jesus in the center. Advent reminds us to keep Jesus in the center of our dreams, aspirations, home, career, family. Sometimes we get busy being ‘religious’ for the sake of satisfying the need to check off a list. We can get into a routine of checking off a list, when we read our Bible in the morning or go to church on Sunday or do devotionals with our family. It is as if we are soothing ourselves by thinking we have met our spiritual quota for the day. Advent can be a season where we can examine our hearts and see where we are with God and with man. Who are we trying to impress? What are we trying to prove? It’s a time to bare our souls and hearts before the One who sees us for who are and echo what David said in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Secondly, Advent calls us to the discipline of waiting. The word, waiting, doesn’t have a particularly positive connotation for us in 21st century America. I find myself getting impatient on the most trivial of matters. I have a tendency to throw my arms up and wonder what’s wrong with my computer or wifi, if a site takes longer than 15 seconds to load. In this season of Advent, we are called to be patient and to wait on the arrival of Jesus’ second coming and all the promises we have in the Word of God.
One of my favorite verses in 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
As we wait on what is yet to come, we have to once again look back 1000s of years. Advent was a tradition which the Israelites kept in looking for the promised Messiah. In 1 Peter 1:10-12, we read, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” As Christians, we are the most blessed people on earth. We are at the receiving end of all of the promises and prophesies from long ago. The arrival of Jesus into this world fulfilled every one of those prophesies that anticipated the arrival of the Messiah.
One of my favorite verses in 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” As we remember that God, in his mercy, was faithful in keeping his Word and giving us his darling Son, Jesus Christ, as our Messiah, we can rest assured while we wait on God’s promises for us and our families and for Jesus Christ’s glorious, second coming.
While following Advent with my family, we have engaged in various practices throughout the years. We read and meditate on Jesus’ birth in the Gospels and also read the prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth. We enjoy meditating on devotionals that are written for Advent. Pastor John Piper wrote an excellent devotional book on Advent and it can be downloaded for free here. We also sing Christmas carols during family prayer. Advent culminates with the whole family attending Christmas Eve Service together.
With less than 20 days to Christmas, if you have never followed Advent, I encourage you to include it as one of your spiritual disciplines. Why not start your own tradition or join me and my family in one of our traditions of looking into the Word of God and build up your faith? John Piper said it excellently, “’Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!’ (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather ‘round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.”
- If you read this blog post and you find yourself a million miles away from the God of the Bible, why not take this time to invite him into your heart? You see, the reason he came down into this earth as a baby and suffered and died on the cross, is because he loves you. He has a plan and purpose for your life. You will never find the meaning of life until and unless you receive what Jesus wants to offer you: the gift of salvation. All you have to do is believe. Why not make this Christmas in 2015, the most memorable one in your life, by inviting Jesus into your life? If you would like to do that, please pray this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, I need you in my life. I am lost without you. I want you to come into my life and fix me. I want to stop going through the motions. I want a personal relationship with the One who created me. Please come into my heart and change me. Amen.
- Scriptures to memorize:
- 1 John 4:9-10: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
- Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
- Jeremiah 23:29: “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'”