Happy New Year! New Church Year, that is. This Sunday begins the season of Advent in the Church Year. Advent is a season of waiting and preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s also a time of waiting and preparation for the Second Coming of Christ in all His glory with the holy angels on the Last Day. Advent is a season in the church that seems to fight a losing battle to compete with the “Christmas rush” and the “Holiday Season” of the world around us. While Christians are waiting to burst out with the joyous hymns of Christmas until Christmas is actually here, the Christmas music has already been blaring on store speakers since before Thanksgiving! Often there is a sort of tug-o-war between the church and the world over when to start celebrating. So which is it? Do we put off our Christmas shopping until December 23rd and let no Christmas music fill our ears until Christmas Eve? Or do we just forget about Advent and dive headlong into the glitz and glitter of the commercial holiday shopping season?
Well the truth is that Advent is like every other season of the Church Year. Advent is about Jesus. So even if we sneak a listen to some Christmas carols or were standing in line early on Black Friday, Advent is still about Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus. Advent is about “Jesus is coming.” (Advent means “coming.”) Christmas celebrates “Jesus is here.” But the Church Year isn’t meant to put a “Bah! Humbug!” on us. The Church points us to Jesus. And Advent is all about Jesus coming, arriving and showing up. There are three ways we look for His coming.
Jesus’ first Advent, His first coming, was in the flesh. That began with Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would be the Mother of God. And so on Christmas we celebrate His birth. (And whether Jesus was actually born on December 25 or not doesn’t really matter; we don’t make laws about such things or get worked up over them!) In Advent, we get to remember that for many centuries, God’s people were longing for the Savior He promised. And since we know that Jesus was in fact born and died for our sins and rose again, Advent is a reminder that the longing of God’s people was not disappointed. God was faithful and kept His promise to send the Savior!
Jesus’ second Advent will be in glory on the clouds of heaven with the holy angels and the blast of trumpets on the Last Day. That will be the day when every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. It will be the day the sheep inherit their kingdom and the goats are sent away. The day the wise virgins enter into the wedding feast while the foolish virgins are left out. It will be the day when the Lord will wipe away all your tears and take away all sin and sorrow and dwell with us forever and ever. It will be the beginning of our paradise and everlasting life with our Lord. Advent reminds us that just as Jesus came the first time, He will come again in glory. We can count on it.
So is Advent just reminding us of the past and pointing us to the future? Not at all. For in between His first Advent in the manger and His second Advent in glory, Jesus still has Advents. He Advents everywhere His Word is preached and people are baptized and His Body and Blood are given to His people to eat and drink. And as He gathers us in His church, as we take a break from counting the shopping days left to buy presents, we hear preached in His church the Good News that Jesus has already done His Christmas shopping. For He bought you. Purchased and won you from all sin, death and the power of the devil. And He didn’t do it with gold or silver or gifts cards. He did it with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. For all its “coming” emphases, Advent is still all about that.
Some churches use purple in Advent. Some use blue. Some pastors are picky about not singing any Christmas hymns until it’s actually Christmas eve. Some folks are already rockin’ their Christmas playlists. Some people fast in Advent. Some do extra baking for Christmas parties. Many churches have an extra service in the week during Advent. Some don’t. But here’s the thing: Advent is about Jesus. All of those practices and customs teach us about Jesus in one way or another. Ask your pastor what your church’s customs are and what they mean. Go to that extra service and have another opportunity to hear God’s Word call you to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Get ready to celebrate Christmas! Get ready to celebrate the Lord’s return! But throughout the Advent season, remember the most important thing of all: When Jesus came the first time, when He comes now in His Word and gifts, and when He comes again in glory, it is for one reason: to save you from your sins and give you everlasting life. Merry Advent in Jesus’ name!
Created: November 26th, 2011