Celebrating Advent

Dear Zion,

You’ve probably noticed that we have begun a special season at church called “Advent.” This word comes from the Latin, adventus, which means “coming,” but both of these words help us understand the biblical word parousia, a word we see in I Thessalonians 3:13, “the coming of our Lord Jesus.” Advent is an opportunity to remember that Christ came into the world “for us and for our salvation.” How can we as Christians benefit from the season of Advent? What can we do to remember “the reason for the Season?” How should we “keep Christ in Christmas?” Let me offer some suggestions.

First, we should meditate on Christ’s first coming. Jesus didn’t come into this world unbidden and for no reason. Rather, Jesus was “sent by the Father” (John 5:36-37). Even being born as a babe in the Bethlehem manger was an act of obedience by the Son to God the Father. Jesus’ obedience is imputed to us by faith (I Corinthians 1:30), so that we may also be obedient to our heavenly Father. But why did the Father send Jesus? Jesus was sent to destroy Satan (I John 3:8), to save us from our sins (I Timothy 1:15), to bring life and light into the darkness (John 1:4-5, 9), for the glory of God (John 7:18), and to serve us and give His life as a ransom for His people (Mark 10:45). Meditating on Jesus’ first Advent should drive us to be Christ-lovers who desire to lay down our lives to serve our neighbors so that we could obey and glorify God!

Secondly, we should look in hope for Christ’s second coming. Though we normally think of Advent with regard to Christmas and Jesus’ birth, the word parousia usually refers to Jesus’ second coming (I Thessalonians 2:19; James 5:8)! Like Abraham, Moses, David, and the saints of the Old Testament, we are waiting for the appearance of the Messiah, even Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:10-14). However, unlike those Old Testament saints who died before Christ came the first time, we “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” because we already know Christ by faith in Holy Scripture (I Peter 1:8). Because we too are waiting for Jesus’ Advent for the second time, we are to live with patience, faith, meekness and righteousness, shining like stars in a dark world. As we celebrate this Advent season, we should remind our neighbors that Jesus has come as a Suffering Servant, and He will come as our Judge and King. This should make us confident in our faith and humble before others.

Many people will give you other laundry lists to “keep Christ in Christmas.” They’ll tell you to never sign your Christmas cards with “Xmas” or “Happy Holidays,” to boycott certain stores, to put a certain Nativity scene in your yard, to only promote certain non-profit ministries, etc., etc., ad infinitum ad nauseum. But what if I sign all my Christmas cards just so, avoid the “wrong” stores in favor of the “right” ministries, and decorate my house with just the right number of Christmas-light-angels, but don’t have Christ’s love in my heart? Have I really “remembered the reason for the Season?”

This Christmas and Advent season, may we be a people who seek the Lord through prayer, looking to Him to create within us the joy of Jesus’ first coming and the hope of Christ’s second coming. Let’s “keep Christ in Christmas” by avoiding commercialism and consumerism, but also by trusting in God’s grace to work powerfully within us to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Trusting with you in the Christ of the First and Second Advents,

Pastor Brian