Advent is the time of anticipation and preparing for the celebration of the birth of Christ. In the Western church calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Sunday closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve (December 24). Depending on your faith tradition, Advent is marked by a time of reflection, prayer, and fasting.
From the Latin adventus (coming, arrival, invasion), Advent proclaims the coming of Christ in two ways: it celebrates His incarnation in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, and it anticipates His return as King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of His imminent return.
This 2023 Advent season we have chosen to set our Advent worship around four key players in the arc of God’s salvation providence: i) the Prophets; ii) Mary; iii) Joseph; and iv) the Shepherds.
Week 1: The Prophets
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 ESV
This is the Lord’s declaration: Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity. Micah 5:2 HCSB
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NKJV
These are just three prophecies from the Old Testament foretelling the coming of the Messiah. In these well known Old Testament Messianic prophecies, we see the promise of the first coming of Jesus given some 700 years before His actual birth. This is the first advent, and the focus of the Christmas season. There are over 300 Scripture prophecies that set out God’s plan for the first advent and the second advent. We wait now for Christ’s imminent return.
While we wait in certain hope, God the Father invites us to His Son’s birthday party. As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birthday, let us make room for Him in our hearts. It is the only sensible answer to God’s invitation.