Celebrating Advent

By Dustin Walters

Advent is my favorite time of the year in the Christian calendar. Advent is the season in the Christian calendar in which believers celebrate the Messiah’s first coming and eagerly anticipate his second coming. It is unfortunate that many believers have never heard the term advent in the local church.

I deeply appreciate the work of the Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and Jacobus Arminius. I also value the impact of the English Reformation and the recovery of the centrality of Scripture in local church worship. At the same time, I admittedly value some liturgy within the church, especially at Christmas and Easter.

If you have never heard the term advent, you are not alone. Many Protestant or low church evangelicals are not familiar with terms that are common in the broader Christian tradition. The English term advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means “coming”. One dictionary describes advent as the “ecclesiastical season immediately before Christmas.” [1] There are differences in the celebration of advent, whether one follows the Western model or the Eastern Orthodox model. The most significant difference is that in the East, Advent is celebrated much earlier than in the west.

We must seek to renew our churches through retrieval. A renewed emphasis on the themes of advent will revitalize the disciple and the church. Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year. In this post, we will consider four categories of advent which foster an environment for renewal through our Messiah Jesus. These four categories are derived and adapted from the Revised Common Lectionary. While I agree with the English General Baptists and the Puritans that prayer and other acts of worship should not be prescribed or ritualistic, I do see value in reading through the lectionary readings and following the liturgical calendar. (Perhaps we can say more about that in a future post.)

Messiah Brings Hope

The first Sunday of Advent emphasizes the hope of the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah 9:1-7 vividly demonstrates how the coming Messiah will bring light to people in darkness. I encourage you to read that passage before you continue reading this blog post. Messianic hope characterizes prophetic literature and provides the people of God with a deep longing for Messiah’s kingdom.

Just like the Old Covenant people of God, we face doubt and hopelessness. This Christmas season we should recognize that even though our world is broken and desperately in need of renewal, we are not hopeless. Christian hope is a present reality for the believer. It is an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19). Celebrate hope this Christmas!

Messiah Brings Faith

Another important theme of the Advent season is faith. Faith is typically emphasized in the second week of Advent. Micah the prophet foretold about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5). He demonstrated faith that God would raise up a king like David to rule over all creation. Faith is required when all hope seems lost. Therefore, faith demonstrates trust in God, based on his self-revelation of His character, despite present circumstances.

This Advent season, we can experience renewal in our faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Let’s renew our faith by renewing our commitment to the Word this Christmas.

Messiah Brings Joy

Hope and faith characterize the first two Sundays of Advent and joy characterizes the Sunday before Christmas. It was to the shepherds that the angels announced Messiah Jesus’ arrival. The Gospel pursues people like shepherds whose significance is not in worldly accomplishments but in their role in caring for and protecting the flock. Consider these words from Luke 2:

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Luke 2:8-14, NASB

For Christians, joy is not dependent on circumstances. Christian joy is rooted in the understanding that God works all things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Christian joy is ignoring not the despair and pain we feel as we live in the world of the now and not yet. Christian joy is not, as some televangelists would claim, a perpetual feeling of bliss. Christian joy is rooted in the fact that God is making all things new through the Messiah. Celebrate joy this Christmas!

Messiah Brings Peace

The culmination of God’s redemptive plan is to restore peace or Shalom with God’s people. The inception of sin interrupted the fellowship and communion Adam and Even experienced before Genesis 3. One of the most all-inclusive terms for what the Messiah accomplishes is peace. When the Messiah comes again, the Lion will lie down with the Lamb (See Isaiah 11:6-9).

While the peace Christ brings is not yet fully realized, believers celebrate the way in which the cross made peace possible. Paul reminds us that Jesus has reconciled us to the father, restoring peace between us and our creator, despite our rebellion (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). This Christmas, we celebrate the Messiah’s peace that passes all understanding. It is this peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It is our hope that the curse will be removed that sustains us on the darkest days (Revelation 22:3).

Conclusion

No matter what your favorite Christmas tradition may be, I pray that the holidays can take on a new or deeper meaning for you and your family. Here at Everyday Theology, we will be dedicating one post to each of the four Sundays of Advent which emphasize hope, faith, joy, and peace. We pray this will enrich your faith and celebration of our Messiah Jesus. May John’s words encourage you today, dear reader!

4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:4-5, NASB

As I finish this brief post, I cannot help but reflect on the powerful lyrics of the hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.


[1] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford: New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 20.

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