So far, each year that the Lord has given me to share in the pulpit during Christmas, I have endeavored to put together a Christmas series. The thing is, I do not want to re-preach the same messages. So each year, I set about how to communicate afresh the message of Christ’s coming. This year, I have elected to put together an advent series.
Now, in surveying different advent themes and traditions, there are quite a few out there and so I didn’t find a “standard model” to follow. So I have put together four themes of Advent that seem best to me to communicate the story of Advent and the four gifts that come from God through Christ to us in the Scriptures leading up to Christ’s birth.
The first gift is the gift of Promise.
Let’s begin with defining what Advent is and why there are so many “advent” calendars, messages, and books out there. Some take it to mean that advent is the event of Christ’s birth that began Christmas. Yet, that’s not really the full meaning.
Advent comes from the Latin meaning to come or arrival.
Our Lord Jesus’ first advent took place in the incarnation, that is, when He took on flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary.
His 2nd Advent in Glory and Power and Judgment we await for in anticipation!
In much the same way that we anticipate the Return, the second Advent of Christ, the Old Testament saints anticipated His first coming.
- Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
The Old Testament saints were told through the prophet Isaiah that,
Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV)
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
The Lord Himself is a promise making, promise keeping God.
His Promise to send Jesus was to be both a sign and hope for the people.
And so it still is today.
- A Gift Promised: Deliverance (Genesis 3:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:45-47, Matthew 1:21)
Isaiah’s prophecy is not only of the virgin birth of a boy but a promise of deliverance. What was lost in Genesis 3, would be restored in Immanuel.
Genesis 3:14-15 (NKJV)
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
It was not the seed of Adam, but of the woman which would crush Satan. This is significant. Each of us has a human father and we inherit his sin nature. But Jesus had no human father. His father was God in Heaven. And because God is sinless, Jesus, God made flesh and blood, was sinless. Fathered by God, born of the woman Mary, Jesus was fully God and fully man. Yet while Jesus had a birth, He did not have a beginning for He eternally has been. As one has said, in Christmas, “the infinite [God] has become an infant.”
From the very beginning of human time when Adam and Even fell, mankind has since been awaiting redemption. We were created for immortal life, not a mortal life of death and struggle. What was lost seemed hopelessly beyond our grasp. Yet for the Believer, there was hope!
What was lost in Genesis 3 would again be restored.
The Lord would again walk on the earth in fellowship with man.
And to do so, the Lord would send a second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. The figurehead of a new race, a new humanity if you will. Redeemed, Restored, made whole again with God.
1 Corinthians 15:45-57 (NKJV)
45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice how the Word of God contrasts what is earthly and fallen with what is heavenly and eternal.
Notice that while Adam’s legacy is death through the Fall into Sin, Christ’s legacy is Life through His atoning sacrifice.
Lastly, did you catch how Paul moves from talking about the deliverance of Jesus, being the one way to eternal life for man (which occurred in Christ’s first advent) that Paul responds in praise to Christ’s yet coming second Advent. He is returning!
God’s promise evokes hope, it lifts our gaze to Heaven. It fixes our minds upon the promises of God. It assures us of the Victory that awaits those who have turned to Christ.
Emmanuel, God with man, was promised through Isaiah but this Savior would have many names, the one we perhaps know Him best by is, Jesus Christ.
Matthew 1:21 (NKJV)
21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Jesus, Yeshua, means Savior, Deliverer.
Every time someone called out His name in Nazareth growing up, every time a weary disciple called out to get Jesus’ attention, every single time they were saying Savior! Deliverer! When you say His name, what do are you saying?
There were many types and symbols in the Old Testament of what we might call little Deliverers, little Saviors. Many certainly regarded Moses as their Savior and Deliverer from bondage in Egypt. Many looked to Joshua, a type of Christ, bearing the same name Yeshua, who delivered them from the wilderness to the Promised Land as their deliverer.
But all of these deliverers, were not The Deliver.
They were awaiting the Messiah which means the anointed one, the chosen one.
They were awaiting The Deliver.
Instead of Messiah, which was Hebraic, in Greek they used the equivalent title, Christ in Jesus’ day.
Jesus Christ became the most famous name and title of God’s Son.
Literally meaning The Savior, the Anointed one. The Chosen Deliverer.
Before the foundation of the world, the Lord foreknew that mankind would stumble and fall into sin. But the Father’s plan was already set to send His only begotten Son our Emmanuel, to be with us and Save us. To make a way for our deliverance. He did not abandon us to our miry fate but rather made a way and promised it.
1 Peter 1:20-21 (NKJV)
20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Anyone, Everyone, Anybody, Everybody, Whoever, Wherever calls upon Christ will be saved [Rom 10:13].
- A Guaranteed Ending
When I worked at the grocery story, we didn’t guarantee much; things were good as long as the supplies lasted. And it’s the same in much of life, not much is guaranteed.
The only things we had to have some kind of guarantee on at the supermarket were for were those items that we had advertised (aka promised a deal on).
The Old Testament saints, were assured, they had the guarantee of the Promise of redemption in Christ through faith. They were saved by God’s gracious gift through faith just as we are.
Hebrews 11, that great chapter recounting the faith of many Old Testament saints says,
Hebrews 11:13 (NKJV)
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Hebrews 11:16 (NKJV)
16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
- The Foundation of our Hope and Anticipation is the Character of God
A promise is only as good as the person who makes it. Have you learned that?
The Old Testament saints were not ashamed because they had a Promise from God. Likewise, we today who have received the fullness of the New Covenant through Christ have the same foundation of the Lord’s character assuring us of His promise. Scripture says as much:
Hebrews 6:13 (NKJV)
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
A promise is only as good as the person who makes it. And God is good, His promises are yes and amen in Christ Jesus:
Hebrews 6:17-20 (NKJV)
17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The Lord’s promise is rooted in His character. And He is unchanging, immutable, consistent, not even a shadow of change in His character! Therefore we can have hope.
The first Gift of advent is the Lord’s promise which gives us hope and anticipation. Do you have that hope of Christ’s coming second advent? Is there comfort and joy in anticipation of His return?
A little child anticipating Christmas morning, knowing what the next day has in store: surprises is giddy. Are not we, the heirs of something far greater than a day of gifts and merriment, hopeful of the yet to be unveiled glory and majesty of Christ’s return?
His promise is sure.
As we wait upon Him, may we:
Psalm 37:3 (NKJV)
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Do you need to ask the Lord to strengthen your trust today?
Where is the Lord calling you to do good (see James 4:17).
Do you need to get still and dwell?
Are you feeding on His faithfulness? Recount His faithfulness, write down the ways He has been faithful to you time and again and to others that you know. Be about abiding in His Word. The Word of God strengthens us [“as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” 1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV)].
Remember the heart of our Savior:
Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.