Advent

Advent
Pastor Stephen "Red" Shumate
December 11th, 2016
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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Advent
Today we are going to be talking about the season of Advent.

Many churches celebrate Advent by lighting a different candle each week.  But if you are like me, Advent wasn’t a big part of your childhood.  And as a result, you only “kind of” understand what it is all about.  So today, we will try to shed some light on just what the Advent season is all about.

The word “Advent” literally means arriving or an appearance, so it is easy to see why it is connected to Christmas because that is when Jesus arrived on earth.  But Advent wasn’t originally connected to Christmas, instead it was focused on Jesus’ second coming and it was meant to help us prepare for His return.

Additionally, Advent is not tied to a specific event that we are commanded to remember.  It’s not like Passover which celebrated and remembered how God freed the Children of Israel from Egypt. And it’s not like communion, where we are specifically commanded by Jesus to partake “In remembrance” of Him.

When we celebrate Advent, it is Christmas that we are celebrating.   And observing Advent is just one of the ways we can celebrate. We don’t have to do it, we are not commanded to do it this way, but it is certainly one very good way to celebrate and remember Christ’s birth, as well as, prepare for his second coming.

Some of you come from different backgrounds and may have been taught a different level of importance to Advent.  And that is okay.  We are not in conflict with how we celebrate or don’t celebrate Advent.

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord” Romans 14:5–6

For those churches who do celebrate Advent, they light different candles each week.  These candles are meant to remind us of different things that Jesus means to us.  And those things should be our focus for the week.  There is no set list of things that the candles are supposed to stand for, but traditionally, they stand for: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.  And then on Christmas Eve a Christ candle is lit that represents Christ as the light of the world.

So today, we are going to take a minute to talk about each one of these qualities of Jesus.

1. Hope 

Isaiah 9:6
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

This scripture of course comes from the Old Testament and is one of the more well-known scriptures that predicted the coming of Jesus as the messiah.  And this prophecy or this promise from God was given to the people as hope.  The situation they were in at that time was dire.

Much like today, the people didn’t have a good outlook on the future.  There was much corruption in the govt. and many people had turned their backs on God.  The few who did remain faithful to God, didn’t see much hope for the world turning around, but then Isaiah came and gave them a prophesy that would give them hope: hope of someone, a messiah, who would come and fix everything.

I don’t think that the word hope has the same meaning for us today as is it did back then, because for us the word has an element of uncertainty.  We hope, but we aren’t sure…For instance we might hope that it doesn’t rain, but we really have no real expectation that our hope will come true.

But hope in this context, really means expectation.  They would have fully expected that this prophesy would come true and that God was sending someone to fix it all.

And we, as Christians should have this same hope.  We should fully expect that Jesus is going to come again and fix all of this once and for all.  And that is a glorious hope, and there should be no reason we are a downcast people.   Christians should be characterized as a hopeful, positive, expectant people because Jesus is our expectation…He is our anticipation…Jesus is our hope…

And that is what our first candle of advent represents.

2. Love

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotton son, that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish but have ever lasting life. 

It’s easy to see (especially from this verse) how the birth of Christ represents love.  As this scripture says, God gave his only son…willingly…to leave glorious Heaven and come to a filthy sinful earth…to be ridiculed, spit on, and crucified…just so that we could be saved.

Now if that’s not love, I don’t know what is and that is part of what we celebrate at Christmas.  The birth of Jesus represents the literal love of God coming to earth.

But how should love help us prepare for his second coming?  Well, it should do two things for us.  The first is that it should help grow our hope because one day, we will be able to live in and completely experience His perfect love.  Currently, as Christians, we do live in his love but sin and a sinful world often gets in the way of our experience of that love.  But once Jesus comes again and restores everything to His original glory, we will be surrounded by His love ans we will be wrapped up in His love like a child is wrapped up in the love of a mother’s arms.

The second way focusing on love should help us prepare for His coming…is that we should pass that love on to others.  Last week, one of the things that we talked about is that we can freely give to others what God has blessed us with, because He draws from an infinite well.  And this is true with His love as well.  We can freely love one another…through caring, through giving, through compassion, through grace, through mercy, through laughter, and through support.

And until that day when He comes again, that should be one of our primary goals: 

To love on others, even when they haven’t loved us…Just as Jesus loved us.

To love on others, when they are unloveable…just as Jesus loved us.

To love on others, and show compassion, grace, mercy, support for them, especially when the world doesn’t even see them…Just as Jesus loved us.

This is what the second candle represents for us, Jesus’ love for us.

3. Joy

The third candle represents Joy.  It is also known as the Mary candle and is often pink.  And that is because we associate joy with the feeling a mother has for her baby.  They aren’t called a bundle of joys for nothing.

And our scripture comes from Luke 2:10
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 

Joy is pure happiness.  It’s that feeling that comes from deep down inside, that makes you smile from ear to ear.  It is satisfying.  It is delightful.  It gives you energy and love and a feeling of well-being.  It’s that feeling of not a care in the world, just happiness.

And this is what Jesus’ birth represents to us:  Joy for so many reasons.  Joy because now we have hope. Joy because now we know we will never be separated from His infinite perfect love.  Joy because this baby boy’s life and death and resurrection means we are finally saved from our own brokenness and from a fate of living like this for eternity.

In this verse the angels proclaimed that the news they were bringing…meant “GREAT JOY.”  And as we look forward to the second coming, I believe it will be a joy unlike anything we have ever experienced before.  I imagine that this joy will be euphoric.

4. Peace

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27 

Let not your heart be trouble or afraid.  This is what Jesus meant to the Jewish nation.  Their history was full of war and bloodshed.  And their history represents our battle with the world as well.

As we are established as His chosen people, we are attacked and we are at war.  And this is no different from back then.  But the coming of Jesus meant peace was coming.  A time when they would no longer have to worry about the attack of an enemy.  A time when they could relax and live in His love and protection.  A time of no fear.

And as we look for his return, this is what Jesus means to us.  Jesus coming means peace is coming.  It means we will no longer be a divided nation, in fact, we will no longer be a divided world.
It means no more spiritual warfare, because the great tempter, will be bound and cast into the lake of fire, where he cannot tempt us. 

And what that means for us is a peace in our hearts…deep down…not just head knowledge that in theory everything is going to be alright, but instead a heart knowledge that everything IS alright and there is nothing to fear and nothing to trouble us.

That is what the fourth candle represents for us: peace and a heart that is not troubled…a  heart that does not fear.

5. Light (Christ) - 

The final candle is typically lit on Christmas eve is often referred to as the Christ candle.  And it stands for Christ as the light of the world.

Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Here is why it is important that Christ be the light of the world.  It is because the light or the righteousness of Jesus exposes our sins (our brokenness).  

This is why many people reject the righteousness of Jesus.  They feel as though they are standing exposed.  So instead of standing in Jesus’ light, they hide in the darkness. And understandably so, no one likes their faults to be exposed.  And compared to Jesus’ perfectness it is easy to see how flawed and sinful we are.  But there are people who do not want to admit their sinfulness,

John 3:19-21
“This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

Here is the thing…
Only a true relationship with God will expose your brokenness…but only a true relationship with God will heal that brokenness.

Only a true relationship with God, will cause guilt and regret over that brokenness… But only a true relationship with God, can take that guilt and regret and give it to Jesus to be placed on the cross.

Only a true relationship with God, will result in repentance (turning from those things that cause brokenness) … But only a true relationship with God, will set you free you from those things.

When the light exposes us for who we really are, only then can we truly appreciate who the light really is.  His light exposes just how small we are, how broken we are, how helpless we are, and how naked we are.  But His light also shows just how Glorious He is.  How big, how holy (perfect) He is.  How much power He has and how much we need Him.

So, those people who don’t want to stand in the light because they will feel exposed, will never truly understand who He is.  Nor will they understand that it is when we stand in His light, that we begin to be healed.  And if we, as Christians, hide in the dark or if we hide parts of our lives in the dark, so the light cannot get to it, then His light cannot heal us.

One final thing to remember about the light of Jesus is that because the light of Jesus exposes so much brokenness…it is imperative that we focus on Him and not the brokenness of the world.

If you have ever had someone shine a flashlight in your eyes, you can’t see anything but that light.  But if you turn around, with your back to the light, then you see all kinds of stuff.  And if we focus on nothing but Jesus then all we will see is Him and we won’t focus on all the brokenness around us.
The thing is, we don’t want to focus on the brokenness around us.  It will shake our faith just as it did when peter took his eyes off Jesus when he was walking on water.  As soon as He took His eyes off Jesus, and instead focused on the storms around Him, He began to sink.  So we want to stay focused on Him.

If we are looking at Jesus then all we will see is His light, and the things of earth really do grow strangely dim.  

And this is what the final candle represent to us:  Jesus Christ as the light of the world.

The advent season should remind us that Jesus is our Hope, Love, Joy, Peace and the Light.  

Who is Jesus to you?


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