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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Renewed Hope and Expectation: The Church Season of Advent

"O Come, O Come Emmanuel!" This familiar hymn reminds the church of the season of Advent, a time traditionally marked for remembering the years of preparation and consecration prior to the coming of the Messiah.

For many centuries, the Church has identified the beginning of the Christmas celebration with a time of reflection and expectation called Advent.

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival" and, when used in conjunction with Christmas, reminds us of the anticipation and expectation held over hundreds of years by the people of Israel for their Messiah and promised King.

For centuries before Christ, Hebrew rabbis methodically and passionately taught the Jewish people that Messiah was coming. They taught that the people should be ready to embrace their King when he appeared. They emphasized the need for holy living and obedience to God's law.

This explains how the lowliest shepherds and fishermen of that day were acquainted with the promises of a Messiah. This season of preparation was all by God's design.

Today, we mark Advent in the Christian church with the display of a wreath - its circle reminds us of God Himself, eternal and endlessly merciful. It is evergreen - reminding us of the hope of eternal life.

The four outer candles incorporated into the display represent the time of waiting and preparation for the Messiah during the four Sundays of Advent (thought by many theologians to represent the four hundred years of prophetic silence between Malachi and the angelic visitations of the Gospels).

The light of the candles reminds us of the Light of world, and the prophetic promise of His coming. The white central candle of the Advent wreath, lighted at Christmas, reminds us of the fulfillment of His first Advent and the pure, humble means by which He came.

Christians today have tasted of His first coming as Savior, experiencing His forgiving grace and saving power. Through study, we have learned about and embraced the truths of His virgin birth, His sinless life, His atoning death, and His glorious resurrection.

The first Advent was the glorious manifestation of incarnation - the uniting of God and man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, born of a virgin in a lowly stable in obscure Bethlehem Ephrata. This indeed was a magnificent and redeeming event without comparison!

But all Christians must also appreciate and embrace another significance in this season of Advent. This Church season is also a prime opportunity to affirm the promise of Jesus that just as He came once, He would one day in the future return to the earth as Sovereign Ruler.

The day He ascended into heaven, two angels appeared and gave His disciples peace and comfort with this promise: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11 NKJV).

The Apostle Paul revealed that "the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God" (I Thessalonians 4:16).

May all Christians in this season of Advent do more than observe a lifeless church tradition. May the Church passionately encourage each other with the awesome promise that Jesus readies Himself even now to return in splendor and majesty - in a much different manner than His first advent.

He will then be revealed as Sovereign of the Universe - King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and Victor over death, hell and the grave.

There is a variety of theological thought and belief concerning the timing of Christ's return, and the events preceding and following His soon-coming return. Those discussions are valid and important.

Yet, the Church must never lose sight of, nor lessen the value of the basic tenet of His Second Coming, so lovingly and longingly held since the Early Church age. Then, as now, reminding one another of Christ's promise to return is not only a strengthening message of hope, but also an admonition to holy living and righteous expectation of His potential revelation in glory.

Paul taught his followers to say, "Maranatha! O Lord, come!" (I Corinthians 16:22).

In these days of tragedy, uncertainty, and war, let the Church arise to her renewed hope and expectancy. In this Advent season, may we be even more encouraged, hopeful, and purposeful, looking with passion for the second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May our lives, our thoughts, and our words reflect our desire for the soon-coming return of Jesus, our glorious King!

Let's pray:

"Heavenly Father, we want to be watching and waiting expectantly for the second Advent of Jesus Christ. We want to be living righteously and uprightly in this troubled world, even as the Scripture has taught us.

Father, our nation and the nations of the world have been rocked by the recent acts of cruelty and evil. These tragedies were not directed against individual people, but against goodness, justice, and faith. Help us to be strong and resolute, as Christians, confidant of your promises, expecting the soon-coming return of Jesus Christ.

Help us to demonstrate our confidence, passion, and love to a hurting world. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen."

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