Grace For The Journey
It seems we anticipate Christmas earlier and earlier every year. Some stores set up Christmas displays during the summer! Pretty soon, they will be up all year around. We can argue about the right time to start playing Christmas carols, but for Christian churches, the focus on Christmas begins the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day with the emphasis of Advent.
Unlike commercial Christmas anticipation, this emphasis is one way to set aside a special time of spiritual preparation to remember the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas as well as anticipating His future coming. In many churches, a wreath and candles are lit each Sunday during this time. Generally, each week focuses on a different theme.
For this blog series, we will move through the four popular themes of hope, love, joy, and peace.
Today, we are talking about hope at Christmas.
On the first Sunday of Advent, some churches light one of the candles on the Advent wreath known as the prophecy candle. Whether or not your church uses this model, it is a good way to begin to understand the idea of Advent.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” Throughout the Old Testament, prophets spoke about the coming of a Messiah. Imagine a world without a Savior. Think about living in a time when you had only the hope that one day a Savior would come!
As we think about hope at Christmas, reflect on the hope of the Savior coming to our desperate, broken world.
The Bible says in Acts 3:18, “But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.”
The Old Testament prophets not only predicted Jesus would suffer, but they also predicted His birth, His family line, His birthplace, and His virgin birth (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14). The most direct and specific prophecy regarding the coming Messiah is found In Isaiah 9:6-7 where the Bible says,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”
The prophecies about the Messiah were not a bunch of scattered predictions randomly placed throughout the Old Testament. They form . . .
A unified promise-plan of God,
Where each promise is interrelated
And connected into a grand series
Comprising one continuous plan of God.
The prophets eagerly anticipated
The coming of the Messiah.
We live in the world after the prophecies were fulfilled. We get to experience the hope they foretold! That is an amazing privilege! Advent is a tremendous reminder of the before and after.
It’s hard for many of us to imagine a world without a Savior, but the prophets lived in times when they could only look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Savior. We live in times where we look back to the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Savior occurred.
As we reflect on the hope Jesus brought on the first Christmas day, take a few moments to read the lyrics of the popular Christmas hymn “O Holy Night:”
“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world. in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices …”
Jesus is the thrill of hope the weary world needed – and still needs! When you celebrate His birthday, praise His continued presence in your life and the hope He gives the world.
Moreover, since Advent is a season of anticipation, it is also gives meaning to His second coming.
For those who have placed their faith in Christ, this world is not your home. We eagerly anticipate the day our Savior will return and take us to be with Him.
Advent provides an opportunity to reflect on the prophets who waited years and many never lived to see His arrival but remained hopeful. May the same be said of us.
I pray that this Advent season draws you closer to your Heavenly Father as you anticipate the arrival of Jesus on earth at His birth and His Second Coming.
In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to lose sight of what you are celebrating – the birth of Jesus! Set aside time each day for a quiet time of prayer and reflection.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”