Merry Christmas and a Joyful Advent to you! Yes indeed, we are well into the season of Advent, a time of celebration, joy, hope, peace, and watchfulness. While some may think of Christmastime as the season where we wait for gifts on the morn of December 25th, to those of the Christian faith, Advent is a time of remembering the coming of Christ, the time of His coming to us, and of looking forward to His second coming.
Advent comes from the Latin ad and venire, together which mean “arrive at” or “come to”. This later was adapted as adventus, which in Ecclesiastical Latin signified the coming of our Lord Jesus, our Saviour. Later, this changed to Advent, which is the season before Christmas, the feast day and mass of Christ’s birth. This phrasing began during the time that Latin was the lingua franca of the world and slowly became the language of the Church. This was the time was to celebrate, or fast, until the Christ Mass, for this was and often still is the way that the Church celebrates saints, holy days, and of course our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In fact, Advent marks the beginning of the Church year as in Christ we are reborn, made new, and redeemed. Our lives truly begin with Him, so it is fitting that our Church year, as every year and day should, begin with Him as our focus. With this in mind, what do the Scriptures say about the coming Messiah? What of His coming to redeem us? What of His second coming? All of these are addressed at this time, at Advent, and hopefully the basics shall be addressed in the following.
The Promised Messiah
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
~ Genesis 3:15 ~
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me [Paul] his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, …
~ 2 Timothy 1:8-9 ~
Even after mankind had rebelled against the commands of God, He still provided for His children and foretold of His coming Son, our Saviour.
As time continued, God sent more words to His people about the coming Messiah, as He told Abram, “and all peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3, 22:18) This, of course was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, through whom all nations have been blessed. Later, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, prophesied that the Savior would come from the line of Judah.
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
~ Genesis 49:10 ~
This was later narrowed down further to a king who came from Judah, a man named David, and it would be from this line that the Messiah would be born (Isa. 11:1-16).
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
~ Isaiah 11:1 ~
The Scriptures also foreshadowed the suffering of the Messiah, such as in the Passover (Exodus 12). He would be the perfect lamb sacrificed for the sins of many, a redeemer from bondage, the firstborn (Luk. 22:1-24:7). David, looking forward to the coming Messiah, spoke of these things”
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grace, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
~ Psalm 16:9-10 ~
Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
~ Psalm 22:16-18 ~
Perhaps, though, Isaiah is the book that contains the most references to the coming Messiah. He is called by many names in this book, all pointing to who He is.
During the reign of Ahaz, who ruled Judah, the land was troubled, because Israel had been divided and Judah feared his northern brothers and neighbors. But the Lord sent Isaiah and spoke of a sign in addition to what would happen before that sign was fulfilled.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
~ Isaiah 7:14 ~
In addition, he foretold of the great coming of the Lord and what it will mean for the world.
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 upon 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. 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 zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
~ Isaiah 9:2, 6-7~
The Lord also told of the one who would prepare the way before Him, which was John the Baptizer (Mal. 3:1). When you read this passage, notice the verse where the phrase “good tidings” which is said at Christmas, and the song “Go Tell it on the Mountain” comes from.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. …”
You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, light up your voice with a shout, lift it up do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
~ Isaiah 40:1-3, 9-11 ~
There are many other prophecies and foreshadowings in the Scriptures of the coming Messiah. If you would like to look at more, I encourage you to look at the link provided at the end of this piece. But for now, we will move onto where the Messiah would be born. So far, the Lord provided for a Messiah, said that He would come from Abraham, then Judah, then Jesse and David. This line leads all the way to the location the Messiah would be born, which was in Bethlehem. This was known at the time of Jesus’ birth, as priests and teachers told Herod (Mat. 2:5-6).
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
~ Micah 5:2-4 ~
Thus, Israel waited for their coming Messiah, the one who would save them. They knew He would come and knew that the Scriptures needed to be fulfilled before that time. And yet, they did not all know Him when He arrived. And though He was not what they expected, He did come.
The Arrival of the Savior
Finally, the long-expected Saviour arrived. Mary, a virgin pledged to be married, was told by the angel Gabriel that she would bear a son and name Him Jesus. Gabriel said, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-33, 35). The conception was truly a miracle. Remember the Creed: Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. What does this mean? Christ had to be both God and man. He had to be perfect and holy and of the line of David. This was a Holy conception by the Lord, the Giver and Maker of life.
Shortly after, Mary and Joseph, still pledged, traveled to Bethlehem, the city of David, to register, and it was here that the Saviour was born, as it was foretold by the prophets (Luke 2:4-7). Many came to see Jesus, including shepherds after they heard the good news from the angels, the magi from the east, and two people at the temple where Jesus was presented. These latter two were Simeon and Anna. Anna was a prophetess and, after having seen the Messiah, gave thanks to the Lord and told all about God’s redemption (Luke 2:36-38). Simeon had been promised by the Lord that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s salvation (Luke 2:25-28).
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
~ Luke 2:29-32 ~
This salvation was not only for the Jews, but even to the Gentiles, all those of the world. As Simeon says here, so too did the Lord say through His prophet Isaiah:
he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light to the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. ”
~ Isaiah 49:6 ~
As the Lord promised to Abraham, all the nations of the earth would be and were blessed through him via the Messiah, the Christ, our Saviour (Acts 3:24-26). He came, died for our sins, and established a new covenant with us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice with His blood that we could not pay, not with the blood of animals nor our own lives.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
~ Isaiah 53 ~
Because of His death and resurrection, we may live forever with Him. After Jesus’ ascension, He sent the Holy Spirit to rest among His people. This was on the day of Pentecost, the day which people of every tribe and tongue began to hear the Word of the Lord (Acts 2:1-19). Thus, the Lord continued His work through His people to spread the Gospel and bless all people (Mat. 28:18-20)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
~ John 3:16 ~
Watching and Waiting for Christ’s Return
But for now, the Lord is in heaven and we are on earth. So what are we to do in the meantime? We are to follow His commands, to pray, to preach the Word in and out of season, to read and know His Words, to continue the spread of the Gospel , to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to teach them all He has commanded (Mat. 28:18-20). This is the great commission. But in addition, we are to wait and be watchful for His coming, for He promised that He will come again.
Therefore keep watch, because you d not know one what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect me.
~ Matthew 24:42-44 ~
Thus, we do not know when the great day of the Lord will be, so we watch and wait. During this time, we are in a sort of “second advent” as we are waiting for his Second Coming. While we wait, we serve Him, and do not waste our time away. We have tasks to do as servants of the Lord and, as He has invested in us, we must increase His investment in what we do, teaching others and sharing the Gospel with all people. We must be ready for the day of His return. (Luke 12:35-48, 19:11-27)
But while we wait, we must keep in mind that there will be those who deceive. Many will say that the Lord is here, or has come, or that it will be this date or that (Mat. 24:1-51). We do not know the day, and we must not be lead astray by those who wish to malign the Word of God (2 Thes. 2:1-6). When the day of the Lord is upon us, we will all know! There will be no mistake, not confusion. His coming will be known from one side of earth to the other. It will be great and terrible.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged! The Judge is standing at the door!
~ James 5:7-9 ~
There will also be those who say that He will not come. These are scoffers and those who wish to claim that the Word of the Lord is not what the Christ said it was, that Christ is not who He is (2 Pet. 3:3-10). We also must be wary of those and not lose heart. The Lord will return. As He foretold and promised that He would come before, so too will He come again. Therefore, we ought to live and follow in His steps, looking forward to the day of His return (2 Pet 3:11-18, 1 John 2:28).
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash there robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go though the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
~ Revelation 22:12-16 ~
The Significance of Advent
To some, the season of Advent does not exist. It is the season of Christmas, which stretched back into October. For some, Christmas is a time for toys and food and fights and reunions. Some of these things are good, some less so. But Christmas is a time of celebration and joy because of Advent, the coming of Christ. Advent and Christmas are celebrated because they celebrate Christ. They do not celebrate what we have done, not our good deeds – sleeping or otherwise – but the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins.
This is truly why Christmas is celebrated and why it is so special to Christians. And while Christians remember Christ always, or at least they should, and remember and celebrate His death until He comes again in Holy Communion, during the start of the church year we celebrate his First coming. This is why Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas and Advent are celebrated because Christ came as a baby, walked among us, and saved us from our sins. Now, we wait again, work, and have faith in His second coming.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed Advent to you and yours,
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
~ Revelation 22:20-21 ~
“advent.” The Online Etymology Dictionary. 2017.