Before I get to our title topic this week, I pray that, even in the midst of this crazy pandemic, you were able to enjoy a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving and you found many things for which to be grateful. As we keep saying, this year has been anything but “the usual” and it’s so important that, with each day we’re given, we maintain a mindset of thankfulness. (1 Thessalonians 5) With whatever we may be facing we have a God who loves us, wants to spend eternity with us and who is very much still in control. May we continuously offer Him our thanks and praise!
As those of you who attend North Coast likely know, for the month of December, we are “pressing pause” on our current teaching series on the book of Acts to consider and again experience Advent.
It might be easy, especially in a year where we’ve been asked to do specific things and refrain from doing others just to see this as another “something” to just let flow over us or with which to just go through the motions.
But I’d like to challenge each of us to more strongly consider how this season of Advent might be more meaningful this year and bring about some real change in our lives and the way we experience the genuine joy of Christmas.
What does Advent mean? In consulting with our Evangelical Free Church of America and other resources, Advent is derived from the Latin Adventus, meaning coming or arrival and speaks to the anticipation we all share about those moments, places and times where “something” is about to happen that our hearts and minds are invested in. For many of us, Advent has become part of a larger season in the Christian year, an aspect of the church’s gathered worship during the 4 weeks leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
For some, Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. Once December 25 became Christmas, it was the center of gravity for the latter half of the year—a perfect balance to Easter in the first half. In this way, Advent took on significance the same way Lent did: both were preparation for the more significant season on the horizon.
As more and more Christians look for a way to separate the spiritual depth of Christmas from cultural commercialism, many are resurrecting the Advent practice.
During Advent, we remember the centuries of waiting and unfulfilled promises that God’s people endured before Jesus came. Advent also reminds us that we, too are waiting, and it challenges us to look at our own hearts. Bethlehem failed to properly welcome a newborn King; how well are we waiting for our King to return?
Although not a biblical mandate for the church, Advent has been and remains an important aspect for many churches for most of Christian history. In fact, according to the Christian year, Advent marks the beginning for the people of God in their annual calendar, not January 1.
Our lives are not only lived between Christ’s first and second comings, they are also marked, formed and shaped by His two comings.
What is the Significance of Advent? It is a time to remember the birth of Christ (Matt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:5-2:20; Gal. 4:4), the time at which the promises for the Messiah in the Old Testament were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isa. 7:14; 9:2-6; Mic. 5:2). It’s valuable to recognize that prior to Christ’s arrival on earth, the Israelites waited some 400 years between the time his birth was foretold and when He actually arrived.
It is a time to ponder the person of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:1-18; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 3:16).
It is a time to look ahead to the time when Christ will return in great power and glory (Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Rom. 1:4) to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:8; cf. 1 Thess. 4:15).
Remembering causes us to thank and praise the Lord for sending His Son to be the Savior of the world.
Pondering causes us to worship.
Looking ahead to the future return of Christ leads to a time of examination to ensure one is ready, prepared, and properly waiting for Christ’s second coming (Matt. 25:1-30; Phil. 3:20-21; 2 Thess. 2:6-13).
And so it is that during this season of Advent, we want to go back to the hope, love, peace and joy that Christ brought to us that first Christmas. Each week as we slow down to consider each of these topics at church, just as some of you may do at home, we’ll also light a candle to remind us and to signify its significance. A time to prepare our hearts and minds for the arrival of true Christmas and what it brings to our lives today; a celebration of the birth of Christ for our salvation.
And how, as we receive and remember each of these attributes, we are called to go out and share them with others, especially those who may not yet know Him. With a voice of confidence in who our God is and in what He has brought to the world. Four weeks of our receiving what Christmas brings to us followed by our challenging ourselves on how we might respond and give it away.
If you’ve not yet had a chance to view or listen to the first message in this series, you may do so via this link.
I hope and pray that you’ll join us at North Coast for these reflections; this amazing celebration; and that, in doing so, this Christmas season will be like no other before it for you. That it will be a season of genuine growth, change and finding ways to share this good news with others.
This we do in preparing our hearts for Christ and His coming.
…right here with you,
- Who do you know that could really benefit from hearing about how much God loves them this season?
- How can you most lovingly prepare your heart and mind to share with them the gift of Jesus?
- With whom has it just been “too long” and who could really benefit from your reconnecting with them?