Advent (literally the “coming”) celebrates the coming of Christ, the light of the world. The Church has observed this season for the past 1,600 years (since the mid-400s) and the Western Church particularly uses the four weeks (and four Sundays) prior to Christmas to recognize the “coming” of Christ in three ways.
First, the coming of Christ as a babe born in Bethlehem to bring hope to our despair and light to our darkness. Second, the coming of Christ to the heart and life of each individual believer throughout the ages. Third, the coming of Christ at the end of this age when He returns to usher in the new age and eternity.
Central to this idea of coming is both the One who comes and the reason that He comes. Advent focuses sharply on Jesus. At every turn, we honor Him and acknowledge that He has entered into our plight with us. Advent also focuses on the reason for His coming; not to judge the world but to bring life wherever death, darkness, sin, and despair have prevailed.
This season oozes hope. Hope for the weary; hope for the broken; hope for the marginalized; hope for the rejected and dejected. Christ brings hope – hope that sin shall no longer be our master, that pain shall not last forever, that our guilt can be forgiven, that our shame will no longer define us, that the darkness of our world will give way to light, and that we are neither alone nor abandoned.
That’s what this Advent series is all about. It’s what Advent has been about for 1600 years. Hope. We choose to be “guided by hope” and we invite you to enter this journey of hope with us. Has our world ever felt darker, more hostile, more uncertain, more difficult, or more divided?
In 1923, almost a century ago, Thomas Chisholm penned the enduring words of “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It included this stanza: “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!” That’s the Advent message.
This Advent we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Let’s also look afresh for His personal coming to each of us, and look well beyond December 25 to that ultimate “coming” when “all things will be made new” (Revelation 21:1-8).