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The Meaning of Advent

The Meaning of Advent

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Advent is the Latin word for coming, and marks the annual historical period of the anticipation, among Christians, of the coming of Christ—the Savior who would redeem all that is broken in the world. This period reminds us today of our anticipation of Christ’s return as we celebrate the Incarnation—the Son of the Most High who became vulnerable, the “forever” King who became weak, the Son of God who was disowned on the cross so that His people could be called “sons” of God, and established the roots for the transformed lives that God’s children are called to live.

The Good News

We observe the Advent as an anticipated event in history (past tense) which drives our anticipation (present tense) for Christ’s return. Just as God’s people, in faith, lived in light of the coming of their Messiah, we live, in faith, in light of His coming as well. As we observe Christmas by sharing gifts and blessings with family —my prayer and hope for Metro Presbyterian Church is that the anticipation of Christ is driven by the good news that arrived with His birth:

  • The angels proclaimed “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14)—that is, the cosmic war between God and man, driven by our sin, is over. This is the good news of the Gospel: we did not achieve the end of the rift on our own merits, but on Christ’s merit. Not our works, but the work of Jesus on the cross.
  • Jesus, the High King, was born in a manger (Luke 2:16), not on a throne. A great philosopher once said that all of life is a “power-play”. Today, we battle one another—to get ahead, set trends, for approval, attention, love, and acceptance. The Gospel turns our addiction to power upside-down; we can use our power (and skills)—our kingly qualities, to enable others.
  • The fact that Jesus was born in a manger, among shepherds (Luke 2:8-10), shows us that it’s the lowly, broken, weak, outcast, or humble that are eligible to receive God’s grace. Kings expect more; servants expect less. The Gospel equalizes kings and servants by offering the Almighty King who became Servant-of-all. His greatness humbles our kingliness. His humility grants us royalty. 1 Peter 2:5—the author calls us a “royal priesthood”. In other words, in heaven, we are kings and priests, whereas on earth, our sin excludes us from priestly access to God (represented by the inner parts of the temple).
  • Jesus is our final resting place; our freedom and rest lie in a Person, not a place. A King, not a mere kingdom. Heaven is not a reward for those of us who obeyed; it is not the reason why we become Christians. We become Christians because we behold the King, and pledge our love, loyalty, and servitude to Him. And Jesus is a gracious, compassionate, humble, loving King; He never rejects, nor overworks, any of His people.

The End of Despair

Knowing and trusting this (and that’s only a glimpse of the blessing of Jesus) can shape our daily responses to life’s circumstances:

  • This is the end of hard labor. The end of working to prove yourself to feel worthy or acceptable. Those human pursuits have a cosmic component to them; we are desperate to be at peace with others because we’ve been at war with God. The war is over, and as a result, we are free from our fear of man.
  • This is the end of snobbishness. The end of comparisons and power-plays. We don’t need to subvert others with our strengths; we can construct others in humility. Our kingly roots lie in a manger.
  • This is the end of entitlement, blame-shifting, and arrogance. If Jesus came for the lowly, the lost—then anyone can be eligible to receive the Gospel. It’s not because you’re wiser, smarter, better-looking, or even more obedient. This means we can look at others with the same eyes that we are looked-upon by the Lord—with love, compassion, and friendship. This changes communities and builds fellowship among those who would’ve previously been enemies.
  • This is the end of despair. Our hope in Jesus, rooted in His character and finished work on the cross, empowers us to cling less tightly to the world around us, and cling more desperately to the perfect embodiment of everything we ever desired or enjoyed in life. Jesus is our refuge—through every storm, blessing—unto Kingdom come. And one day, the very presence of despair itself will be swallowed up in hope and victory.

As the days of Christmas draw near, let’s remember the birth of the central figure of God’s redemption story: Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, born in a manger—Savior and King of God’s people.

With Love

To my beloved Metro Presbyterian Church community, what an amazing year we’ve had! Month-by-month, the Father has shown us His continued presence and love—all the while holding us fast to the cross of Christ. I look forward to the next few opportunities we have to worship together—the children’s presentation, choir, string quartet, and message—acknowledging that God is doing 10,000 things daily for His glory and our good. Like Mary in Luke 2:19, let’s treasure all of these above things about Jesus in our hearts as we see Jesus as the centerpiece of life’s story and journey. Let’s relive the birth of Christ, and plug our story in it by applying His humility, righteousness, and weakness in our arrogance, sinfulness, and pride. Let’s proclaim a season of peace (again) in our lives because of the coming of Christ. My hope is that you enjoy your holiday season with one another as you savor the deep richness of being found in Jesus. Merry Christmas.

With love, Donny

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