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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Celebrate — Jesus Is Coming!

By Phil Taylor
Nov. 25, 2012

When I was growing up, we never talked about Advent. That was something churches with stained glass windows and candles talked about — but not us.

I think we should reconsider. Let me tell you why I believe Advent would be a good addition to our church calendars.

The word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” In the church, Advent refers to the anticipated arrival of Christ, born in Bethlehem as Savior of the world. More specifically, Advent encompasses the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day.

Over the years, I’ve observed — as many have — that the Christmas season in the United States is becoming more of a secular holiday focused on commerce and less about the birth of Christ. As this trend continues, I believe it becomes even more important for a church to celebrate Advent.

Advent is the anticipation of spiritual realities surrounding Christ’s birth. It’s the time to focus on the greatest of miracles, that God became flesh — that He came in human form to take our sins upon himself, so that by faith we could partake of His nature and righteousness.

Some might ask, “What is the point of Advent?” My answer: Think of silence. Imagine the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. Has God stopped talking? Is He finished with His people? Is there a sign things are about to change?

The people could reflect on the words of the prophet Isaiah: “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, NIV). Advent anticipates the breaking of silence with an extraordinary message. Christ is born, and salvation has come (Luke 2:8-12).

Advent is about expectation

During the four Sundays of Advent, we reflect on those days when Jesus hasn’t yet come. Mary and Joseph haven’t arrived in Bethlehem. They’re still on the road from Nazareth. Their pace is slow as the roads crowd with people heading to Bethlehem to pay their taxes to a Rome they despise.

The manger is still empty.

Is it time? Not yet, but soon the 400-year silence will be broken. God is about to speak to His people once again. Can they feel it? Can they sense that the Savior is about to be born?

This is what Advent is about. Anticipation. The world can have its Black Friday sales and eggnog and Frosty the Snowman. Give me a quiet moment to ponder the fullness of time that approaches. After all those years of silence, without a word or sign from God, the heavens are about to open. The angels are about to sing. Jesus is coming.

This is Advent. Let us prepare our hearts for the arrival of the newborn King.

Advent is about faith

God will intervene once again, when the time is right. That’s good news for us. It’s good news for those who struggle with the longing that so often accompanies anticipation.

When we were children at Christmas, the waiting was the worst. But now we wait for something far more critical than packages and toys. We wait for God to break His silence in our personal lives. We await His intervention, His healing, His signs. But nothing has happened.

Don’t give up! Advent reminds us to keep watching and waiting with expectant faith. See Mary and Joseph on the road. Just as surely as you see them and know Jesus will soon be born, your miracle, your sign, your answer is on the way. God will speak. He will intervene. He will arrive — just at the right time.

This is the importance of Advent. Every time you see a manger scene, let it remind you Jesus is coming. And He will be right on time.

Advent is about hope

Advent anticipates that the way things are today is not the way they will be tomorrow. Isaiah said, “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” (Isaiah 9:2).

You know what it’s like to walk in darkness. Everything is uncertain. You lack confidence to take a bold step because you cannot see what lies ahead. The future can seem frightening and sinister.

But Advent means hope. It is the promise of light invading our darkness. Things are about to change.

Note that Isaiah spoke as if the promise had already happened. “The people … have seen a great light.” He held this perspective even though the promise was hundreds of years off, because he was certain. God had spoken, and it would happen because God is faithful.

Look now at verse 1: “There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” I love the hopefulness of Advent! No more gloom for those who have experienced darkness and distress — for those who know what it feels like to bear a heavy burden. For those not able to lift their heads.

In Isaiah, the prophet pointed God’s people toward the day when they’d be set free from their oppressor. They looked forward to the Messiah.

We, too, anticipate the coming of the One who will rule and reign forever. He will save us from our oppressors and our enemies. But, more importantly, He will save us from ourselves. He has come to take away our sinfulness, to save us from eternal separation from God. He is our Savior.

Advent is about preparation

Think about the time spent preparing for Christmas. Some will embark on a shopping marathon the day after Thanksgiving. Why? The deals are great and the Christmas shopping needs to be done.

Others will decorate their houses inside and out. The project might take days. But it’s all about preparing for the holidays.

May I suggest that we take time for some spiritual preparation? How about spending a few minutes reading the accounts of Christ’s birth in Matthew and Luke? Or taking a few moments each day to meditate on what it means to us that God sent His Son into the world to save us.

Let us prepare our hearts for the celebration of His arrival. And I encourage us all to be prepared for His next arrival as well.

While Advent refers to Christ’s coming as a baby in Bethlehem, it should be about preparing our hearts for His second coming as well.

Advent is a way of saying, “Get ready! Something important is about to happen!”

Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:32,33).

Are you ready for His coming? Let’s use this Advent season to prepare our hearts to ponder the miracle of His birth. Let’s prepare our hearts to gaze with wonder into the manger, beholding God in the flesh.

But let us also use this time to prepare our hearts for the miracle of His return. Mary didn’t know the arrival of the Savior was approaching until the birth pains began. We don’t know the day or hour of His return, but the birth pains have begun.

The signs are all around us. It’s time to prepare; this is Advent season. Get ready. Jesus is coming!

PHIL TAYLOR is senior pastor of Carbondale Assembly of God in Tulsa, Okla.

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