November 30, 20190 comments
For Christians who love the gospel, Advent is surely the most wonderful time of the church’s year. This is not because every other Lord’s Day is somehow inadequate. It is, rather, that Advent celebrates the wonder that is at the heart of the good news. That wonder is simply but profoundly this – that God became Man in Christ Jesus. There you have it. Fully God and fully man, united together in one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In every age of the church, believers have been awed by this central miracle of the gospel. Athanasius, the fourth century church leader, famously wrote of the Incarnation: “The Son of God became man so that men might becomes the sons of God.” The Son of God came to save, in other words.
The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, captured the gracious paradox of Christ’s birth: “Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son. Oh, the wonder of Christmas.”
And from our own era, J. I. Packer expresses the purpose of Christ’s coming: “The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity– hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.”
Pick any era of the church’s history, and you will find brothers and sisters taken up with the wonder that is the Incarnation. This is why we make it our practice at Midtown to celebrate Advent each year. Our aim is to do more than follow the church calendar. Our hope is to refocus our hearts and minds on the wonder of grace that is the foundation of our hope. The Son of God laid aside his glory for us and for our salvation. Before Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the gospel message begins with Christmas morning and the Incarnation of the Son of God.
This year, our Advent series will focus on four passages from the book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah uniquely saw the coming of the Messiah, and his prophetic ministry is the source of many of the Old Testament’s most powerful gospel promises. Like a long shadow stretching back in history, the coming of the Messiah is promised and foreseen in Isaiah’s ministry. And that makes Isaiah an ideal book to focus on during Advent.
For the First Sunday of Advent, we will hear of “Comfort for the Waiting” from Isaiah 40:1-11. The Second Sunday will focus on “Light for the Captive” from Isaiah 42:1-9. “Redemption for the Wayward” will be the theme on the Third Sunday, as we listen to Isaiah 52:13-53:12. And finally, the Fourth Sunday of Advent will announce “Joy for the World” as we hear from Isaiah 55:1-13.
In terms of your own preparation, it may be fruitful to read slowly through chapters 40-55 in Isaiah. Perhaps read these chapters together as a family. Or maybe ask a few church members to read through it with you, so you can share insights and encourage one another.
Whatever you decide, I pray you’ll take the opportunity that Advent presents to refocus on the glory and grace that is Jesus Christ, trusting that as our minds are renewed in the knowledge of Christ, our lives will be conformed to his image as well.