What is “Advent”?

“Advent” means “coming” or “arrival”.  There are two ways this word is used.  First, it’s a reference to the arrival of the Jesus in Bethlehem.  Second, it can be used as a reference to the return of Jesus.

Understood best, the season of Advent reminds us of both. 

As the season preceding Christmas, Advent began, most likely, around the fourth century.  It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, however, that it was “standardized” as beginning four Sundays before Christmas.

In terms of the Christian Calendar, it is considered the beginning.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  We are preparing for the birth of Jesus: the beginning, so to speak, of when everything changed.

And moving through Advent helps us ground ourselves in the hope found in our King, the Baby of Bethlehem.

And on this first week of Advent, we see Jesus as the bringer of hope.  We read in Romans 8:23-25.

23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  

Romans 8:23-25
New International Version

Verse 23 is a fantastic example of the tension of living in these “in-between” times—between Jesus’ first arrival and His second.  We have received our adoption to sonship, a concept both Jewish and Roman people would understand as a boy being adopted and becoming the full inheritor of the estate.

Yet, we have not received our full inheritance of the adoption.

In the meantime, we wait patiently in hope.  Biblical hope is not wishing.  We often use the word “hope” as “I hope I get this or that for Christmas” and we really mean “wish”.  That’s not Biblical hope.

Biblical hope not only has a desire for something good in the future, it actually expects it to happen.

And when it comes to the promises of God, why shouldn’t we expect the Lord to fulfill His promises?

We wouldn’t need hope if we had all the promises of God now.  Instead, we await the benefits of our adoption, which will only be granted at either our death in Jesus or His return.  We hope because we do not have all the benefits now.

Our faith is always “forward-leaning”—it’s focused not only “here and now” but in the “then and not yet”.  It’s just like this time frame we’re living in between the Lord’s arrivals. 

And just like we look forward to Christmas Day with excited wonder, so we are called to look forward to the return of our Lord. 

While we wait, we need to build our “hope bank” in the Lord.

This week, I make the following three suggestions to help build up your “hope bank” in the Lord.

  1. Call a friend and encourage them.  As a pastor friend of mine says, “I may not be able to take a rock out of their bag, but at least I won’t add to it.”  In other words, let’s encourage someone on this journey without adding to their load.
  2. Participate in a Daily Advent Devotional.  These snippets of Scripture and thought are fantastic ways to center ourselves on the Lord during this crazy season.  Here’s a plug for Advent 2019 (yes, that’s the right date!): my staff team and I are producing our own Daily Advent Devotional.  But in 2018, find one and read it.    
  3. Reflect on the carols of Christmas.  Whether it’s online, in an old hymnal or songbook, or some other way, read through the Christmas carols.  Meditate on them.  One great one is “Joy to the world” which, by the way, isn’t about Jesus’ first arrival. 

What a privilege to be on this Advent 2018 journey with you.  Advent blessings to you and Merry Christmas while we wait for the hope of the Lord to be revealed.

“Life Meets Theology” will return to its normal Wednesday morning distribution on January 2.