Advent brings with it the anticipation of a celebration. The word “advent” means: “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” I did not grow up in a church that celebrated Advent or lit candles, so I am later in coming around to the traditions surrounding it. For those of you who may also wonder about the celebration of Advent, the season is ushered in the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and with it begins a spiritual countdown of sorts to Christmas Day: the arrival of Christ.
It is fitting, with the anticipation of Christ’s coming, that the Advent candle lit on the first Sunday of December symbolizes hope. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Israelite people had been waiting a L-O-N-G time for the Messiah to come. They had long carried hope for what had been promised to them by the prophets. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.Isaiah 9: 6-7 ESV
700 years! That is a long time to wait for a promise. One generation passed their hope on to the next, verbally telling and retelling the old stories and prophecies. Generations died, and new ones were formed, and still they waited. Finally, the beginnings of change arrived in the form of small miracles foretelling the Messiah’s arrival:
- The angel Gabriel appears (Luke 1:19, & 1:28)
- A priest mysteriously goes mute (Luke 1:20)
- A barren woman is suddenly with child (Luke 1:24)
- A small baby leaps in the womb (Luke 1:41)
- Angels are found singing in the sky (Luke 2:13)
These miracles were not broadly publicized. Most Israelites had no idea they had even occurred. After hundreds of years of waiting, baby Jesus arrived with little fanfare or celebration.
The chosen Messiah certainly did not come in the way that the Jewish people had expected. They had been waiting in hope for a Savior who, as Isaiah had prophesied, would come and set up his own government. They were living under Roman rule and felt oppressed. They wanted a strong leader to come and save them, not an innocent babe arriving practically unannounced. Their vision was too small. They wanted to be rid of Roman rule, and God had bigger plans. Jesus didn’t rid the Jews of Roman rule. Instead, He banished sin and death itself, providing salvation for all people. God’s ways of delivering on His promises often look very different from our expectations.
Advent is a time of reflecting on Christ’s arrival 2,000 years ago, but did you know that Advent also continues in the present? We are not just celebrating a past event, we are anticipating what is to come! Jesus has promised he is coming back again, and we can fervently await his coming. The hope of Advent continues today!
As I write about Advent this Christmas season, I want to make the experience multi-sensory. Advent is a time for meditation and worship, and using more of our senses enriches that experience. For this reason, I will be including a song in each Advent blog post that parallels with the week’s topic. Almost There, written by Michael W. Smith and sung by Amy Grant, is a beautiful song all about waiting in hope. Enjoy!
Pause: Take a moment to still and quiet your mind. Listen to the song above, then read Isaiah 9: 1-7. Allow yourself to slow down enough to really meditate on the words.
Renew: What are you waiting for this Christmas season? What does Hope mean to you this Advent? Take time to think, pray, or journal about how Christ’s coming has changed the world and how it has changed you.
Next: In the busyness of the Christmas season, it is sometimes difficult to focus on Christ. Think of ways that you can live out Hope this Christmas season. Maybe it will be in the form of beginning an Advent tradition with your family or perhaps in loving a neighbor who is grieving and has lost their own hope this Christmas. Pray and use your imagination!
May you be filled with Hope this Advent season.
Pause, Renew, Next!