Isaiah 9:2,6-7a – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 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 increase of His government and peace there will be no end. (NIV)
The package arrived at the end of that November when we were teaching in Kangnung, Korea. It contained an Advent calendar and some small gifts for each day of Advent.
On the calendar were little windows to open, each one with a Scripture to read pertaining to the coming of a baby to be called Jesus, who was sent by His Father to bring peace on earth and good will to men. Sad to say, the idea of the gifts was more appealing to me than the daily readings, because of an innate prejudice that I had grown up with concerning the word "Advent".
The season of Advent, along with Lent, involved, to my way of thinking, simply formal duties, dry traditions of liturgical churches, and had little if anything to do with having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
I had seen them light some candles in my church during this Advent season, which started in early December and ran until Christmas Eve, but I paid little attention to the explanation of the reason for the ceremony or the Scripture readings which accompanied it, due to my prejudice. In this respect, I was spiritually deaf, by choice.
Recently, I was asked to consider writing a devotional about Advent. I wondered why anyone would want a devotional dealing with such a dry ritual. Out of curiosity, I decided to research the event, expecting to be thoroughly bored. However, I was in for a big surprise. I was totally taken up with its significance.
The first thing that struck me was the meaning of the word "Advent". It meant "coming" and focused on the coming of the baby Jesus which happened over 2000 years ago. But it had never dawned on me that Advent also focuses on a future event, the return of Christ the King in His second advent. It is the celebration of the truth that Christ will come again in power. It was then that I realized that Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation and a hope of deliverance from the evils of this world. That was an amazing thought.
When the understanding suddenly flooded through my mind that we as believers live between these two advents and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God's people, it left me almost breathless, as well as shocked at my ignorance of this truth. And while we wait, we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart and love our neighbour as ourself.
So the lighting and relighting of the Advent candles on each of the four Sundays prior to Christmas wasn't a mere ritual. It has a deeply significant meaning. In that moment of divine revelation, I bowed my head in repentance for allowing pride and prejudice to keep this vital truth from me, and I humbly asked God to forgive me. Then I thanked Him from the bottom of my heart for making this coming Christmas so meaningful by opening my spiritual eyes to the privilege of celebrating both of His advents, past and future, with thankfulness, expectancy, and hope: thankfulness for His first advent which brought me the gift of salvation; expectancy and hope as I look to His second advent when I shall be called up to meet Him in the air and be with Him forever and ever. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Prayer: Lord, as we look to Your birth, we recognize the hope that You brought into our world. Help us to reflect Your love to those around us and give them hope. Prepare our hearts for the joy and gladness of Your coming, for You are indeed this world's only hope. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Come Thou Almighty King" (Lyrics)