Advent: Remembering in Anticipation

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Advent: Remembering in Anticipation

This Sunday, December 1st, is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent simply means “coming,” and is the term used to describe the four weeks leading up to Christmas whereby the church remembers Christ’s coming to dwell with humanity. While the origins of this tradition are debated, we have evidence of the church celebrating Advent as early as the 4thcentury. Thus, Advent has a rich history within the Christian tradition and has served to direct the attention of God’s people upon Jesus as Savior and King.

But what exactly does Advent mean? As I already mentioned, the word literally means “coming” or “arrival.” More specifically, the word “advent” derives from the Latin, “adventus” which is a translation of the Greek term, “parousia.” In the New Testament, “parousia” or “coming,” almost always speaks of Christ’s second coming (Matt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor 15:23; 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:1, 8; Jas 5:7–8; 2 Pet 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28). And thus, the Church has viewed Advent as a season of anticipation for Christ’s soon return.

However, the Church has also recognized that Christ’s arrival (parousia) is in two stages. Consequently, we speak of Christ’s “first” and “second” comings. In this way, Advent is not only about looking forward to Christ’s return, but also looking back to Christ’s first coming. We recognize that we live between these two events; and so, we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ… our Lord conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary;” and also that “he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Therefore, Advent is intended to help us remember in anticipation; to remember Christ has come and to anticipate his coming again. So, as you attend worship over the next four Sundays, let me encourage you to set your mind upon the Advent of Christ in all its fullness. As we light the various candles and read collections of Scripture, let this Ancient tradition draw your attention to the beauty, wonder, and awe of our Savior’s presence.

On December 1st, we’ll light the Candle of Hope and read Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, Psalm 130:5, Romans 15:13, and 1 Peter 1:3 which speak of the hope we now have in Christ. However, this hope not only affects how we live today, but it is a hope that will not disappoint when Christ returns.

On December 8th, we’ll light the Candle of Peace and read Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 2:13-14, and Colossian 3:15 as we remember how Christ has reconciled us to the Father and with one another making peace by the blood of the cross. And at his return, we’ll experience that peace forevermore.

On December 15th, we’ll light the Candle of Joy and read Jeremiah 31:13, Luke 2:8-11, and Romans 15:13 recalling the great joy we have in Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the law and delivered us from condemnation. We’ll also anticipate entering the joy of our master when he receives us to himself.

On December 22nd, we’ll light the Candle of Love and read Zephaniah 3:17, John 15:9, 13, Romans 5:8, John 13:34-35, and 1 John 4:19 remembering God’s great love demonstrated in sending his Son to die for us. We’ll also meditate on his abiding love which keeps us, even through death, into eternity.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, we’ll light the Candle of Christ and read Isaiah 7:14, Romans 15:12-13, Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 2:8-11, John 3:16-17, John 1:9-14, and John 8:12. These Scriptures remind us that Jesus is the light of the world who has rescued us from darkness; and at his return, darkness will be no more.

Therefore, with the Christmas season upon us, by all means enjoy the festivities, the music, the movies, and the gifts; but let us not forget the Advent of Christ. Remember in anticipation.