Advent

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Now that the weather has warmed up, it’s like we’ve come out of hibernation. There are people everywhere. The pace of activity has gone up a notch or two. And Christmas is only a handful of weeks away! So, how should we approach Christmas?

Technically speaking, the Christmas season begins on 25th December and lasts for twelve days. The proper name of the four weeks from 1st to 24th December is “Advent”, which means “coming” in Latin. I don’t pay attention to the traditional church calendar, apart from the dates of Christmas Day and Easter. But for those who do, Advent is a time to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. There may be time to read and reflect on the promises of the coming Saviour, like Isaiah 7:10-14:

“Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

That promise came when Israel was staring down oblivion. But it’s a promise of something much greater than military victory. When they doubted whether the Lord could save them from their enemies, He promised to come and be with them! Matthew tells us that the birth of Jesus was the fulfilment of this promise: God came to us (Matthew 1:23).

But it’s not enough to be amazed that Jesus, God’s eternal Son, came to live on earth. It’s not enough to be inspired by His example and go to those who are less fortunate than us (though that is a good thing to do). We must ask why Jesus came.

We must not only think of God as Immanuel, but know Him as Jesus: the One who would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). That’s why Jesus came.

Notice: It is only His people that Jesus came to save. The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, which tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is only those who trust in Jesus to save them that receive eternal life.

But that’s not the end of the passage,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:17-19).

The first advent, Jesus came to save. But He will have a second advent. As the Apostles’ Creed reminds us, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead,” (Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16 & 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:20).

When Jesus’ first advent ended, He sent His Church to be witnesses to the end of the earth in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Then He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). But two angel appeared to His disciples, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). Followers of Jesus are supposed to live every day from the end of His first advent motivated by His second advent.

That’s how we should approach Christmas (and every other time of the year): Not only by looking back to His first coming, but preparing ourselves for when He comes again. Are you ready? And are you being a witness to Him while we wait?

Yours in Christ’s service,

Stephen McDonald