Beginning next Sunday, Midtown Baptist will be celebrating Advent. We’ve celebrated Advent every year of our church’s life, but this year seemed like a good time for a short reminder as to why we take four weeks to commemorate this time in the church calendar.
What is Advent?
Traditionally, Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day, beginning this year on November 30. Advent is often associated with more liturgical traditions, but there is great value in commemorating Advent, even if our church doesn’t follow the liturgical calendar.
Advent is a time to reflect on the first coming of Jesus Christ. That’s what the word advent means – arrival or coming. So, during Advent, we reflect on Christ’s first coming into the world. We remember the thousands of years God’s people waited for the Messiah to come. And we celebrate that in a lowly Bethlehem stable, God kept his promises by sending his Son, born of a virgin, to be our Savior.
Why do we celebrate Advent?
We are a forgetful people. Like the Israelites of old, we quickly lose sight of the promises God has spoken in his Word. And we just as quickly fix our eyes on the broken, failing promises of this world. And before long, we find ourselves wandering in the wilderness - grasping for hope, stumbling in the darkness, and desperate for an answer to the desolation we see around us.
And that’s why we celebrate Advent. For four weeks, we purposefully remember. We remember what God promises his people in his Word. We remember how Christ came to fulfill those promises. We remember that Christ is coming again one day to finish what he started. We celebrate Advent in order to remember.
And in remembering, we repent. We repent of our forgetfulness. We repent of our tendency to believe lesser promises, ones that are never kept and never satisfy. We repent of all the times we’ve lost sight of the eternal by focusing only on the temporal. At Advent, we remember, and in remembering, we repent.
But we don’t only repent. We also believe. Advent is not only about remembering God’s promises fulfilled in Christ. It’s also for believing those promises afresh! By reflecting on Christ’s first coming, our faith in the gospel is strengthened. We’re reminded of the hope we have in Christ. We’re reminded of the light Christ brings to our darkness. And we’re reminded of the restoration Christ brings out of sin’s desolation.
So, that’s why we celebrate Advent – because we’re a forgetful people who need to remember God’s promises, repent of our unbelief, and believe once more in the glorious gospel of Christ.
What is our plan for Advent 2014?
This year, our Advent series comes from Isaiah. Perhaps no other book in the Old Testament captures so clearly and richly the promised coming of the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied during the eighth century B.C., a time of incredible turmoil in the life of Israel and Judah. Isaiah witnessed the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, and he warned the southern kingdom of Judah of a similar fate if they did not turn from their unfaithfulness and idolatry.
But in the midst of those warnings, Isaiah also spoke of hope and salvation for a faithful remnant of God’s people. That salvation would be realized through a coming King who would sit on David’s throne forever. This King would deliver God’s people and establish God’s kingdom on earth. Our Advent series will focus on some passages that speak of this coming King. Our goal will be to understand Isaiah’s message to the people, how it was fulfilled in the coming of Christ, and how this strengthens our faith in the gospel.
Lord willing, the sermon schedule will be as follows:
November 30: Salvation from Sin (Isaiah 1-3)
December 7: Hope in the Midst of Fear (Isaiah 7:1-25)
December 14: Light for Our Darkness (Isaiah 9:1-7)
December 21: Restoration Out of Desolation (Isaiah 11:1-16)
How can you participate in Advent?
There are a number of Christ-exalting, gospel-centered resources that can serve you during the Advent season. I’ve listed some below. The books can easily be downloaded for free or purchased from an online bookseller. The albums are available on iTunes (or any other digital music store).
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Nancy Guthrie
My prayer is that God would be pleased to use this Advent series to increase our love for Christ, strengthen our faith in the gospel, and encourage us to use our lives to make much of our glorious King.
Would you join me in praying for those things as well?