4 Reminders of Advent
By NMC - November 30, 2017
At NMC, Advent is rarely formally observed. For some, it drums up memories of growing up in another church or religious system. For others, it’s mysterious, something they know little about. Regardless of where each of us comes from, Advent holds deep beauty and meaning.
Simply put, Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” and it refers to the four weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s a time of reflection and celebration. It’s a time of reading Scripture and anticipating the birth of Christ. Advent beckons us to something bigger, something greater, something more wonderful than we could ever imagine.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” Isaiah 9:6a (NIV)
Throughout all of Scripture, even in the Old Testament, we see hints of Jesus. We see hints of His character and His eventual arrival to our broken world. Advent points us to passages like Isaiah 9. Even then, thousands and thousands of years ago, the Father was whispering to His people, “Don’t worry. The Messiah is coming.”
But there is something even more beautiful that we see in this verse.
“…a son is given.”
Advent calls us to receive.
Do you ever find yourself struggling to earn the Lord’s love or justify yourself before Him? Do you ever find yourself working and hustling and trying so very hard to prove your worth?
Advent reminds us that this, all of this, is a gift, freely given. Advent calls us to put down the things that keep us working and simply receive. We receive the gift of Jesus becoming a human and moving into the neighborhood, a perfect, divine being dwelling with broken and bruised people. We receive the gift of His unconditional, never-ending, always-present love. We receive the gift of His sacrifice. There is nothing we can do to work for or earn Him.
And so we receive.
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” Psalm 62:5 (NLT)
The idea of arrival found in Advent is two-fold. It’s the arrival of Jesus, His birth. This was an arrival that was anticipated for so many years. It was a promise people clung to through the pain and challenge of life on Earth. Advent is also about the arrival of Jesus a second time, the new Heaven and Earth He will bring. It’s an arrival we wait for daily.
Advent reminds us to wait. In this season of hustle and bustle and busyness, it brings to mind passages like Psalm 62.
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God.” (NLT)
Advent reminds us that much of our lives are spent in the waiting. Advent calls us to be still, especially in our culture of busyness. As we rush and hurry, we miss the waiting, the anticipation of what God is going to do.
There isn’t a lot of “quiet” in the American Christmas season, but there is a call that beckons us toward that. It is Advent. Wait for the birth, wait for the second coming, wait for the Lord.
And so we wait.
Take Courage and Have Hope
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10b (NIV)
So much of the Christmas story is confusing and out of the ordinary. Today we know the ending, but can you imagine living it moment by moment? Can you imagine the fear and uncertainty? Can you imagine the questions you might have, the doubts you might ponder?
Over and over again, the angels told those they visited—Mary, Joseph, the shepherds—not to be afraid. Take courage. Have hope. Advent reminds us of this. It reminds us of this hope and courage that believes even when things don’t make sense, when the big picture seems really fuzzy.
So much of our lives is confusing. Our lives are full of uncertainties. We have questions. We have doubts. But take courage. We see courage in Mary’s life as she hopes in the bizarre work of the Holy Spirit. We see this in Joseph’s life as he courageously marries Mary even though nothing makes logical sense.
The Advent season reminds us to do the same. It calls us to set aside our fear for the sake of the Kingdom and the work of God. It calls us to trade our insecurities, our doubts, our worries, our fears for courage and hope found in the One who has promised great and mighty things.
And so we take courage and have hope.
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” Luke 2:17
In the day of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were among the lowest of the low, yet they were welcomed, they were invited to the place where Jesus lay. They were among the first to see Him, to witness the miracle of Heaven on Earth. And after the shepherds had seen Jesus, they told everyone.
Advent calls us to share and to share with everyone.
This is an incredible gift that we have been given. It’s one that the world has waited for since the beginning of time. It fills us with hope and courage. It destroys our fears about the future. It is a gift that offers life and love. It is a gift we would be selfish not to share. Advent calls us to share this gift—the gift of Jesus.
As we look forward to Christmas, we reflect on the beauty of this gift. We reflect on Mary and Joseph, on the messages from the angels, on the shepherds and the visitors from the East. We remember the story that God has been writing for centuries upon centuries. The story of Jesus is one that longs to be shared.
And so we share.
Advent is so much more than the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent is a state of being throughout the entire year. Today, and every day, may we receive the gift of the Son of God who was so freely given. May we wait quietly before the Lord, anticipating His arrival and His work being done. May we take courage and have hope that the Lord will do all He has promised to do. And may we share with passion the gift of Jesus.