What is Advent and Why Celebrate it?
The celebration of ADVENT gives us opportunity to focus on Jesus in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Advent means coming. The worldwide church follows a seasonal calendar focusing on the 2 major events in Jesus’ life – the welcome of His incarnation (Christmas) and the victory of His resurrection (Easter).
When we think and read about the prophets predicting Jesus’ birth, it makes us thankful for the hope of Jesus. When we’re reminded of the Israelites enslaved and then in exile, we become grateful for the God who is with us—Immanuel. In this season we anticipate celebrating Jesus’ first coming, but Advent also points us to His return. We still long for hope, peace, and joy, for God With Us. In Jesus’ second coming, we will have perfect hope, peace, joy, and love, and we will be with God for eternity.
Different churches tell the story in different ways. This year we’ve chosen to use the traditional four words of Advent – HOPE, PEACE, JOY AND LOVE – to focus each week on the good news of Jesus’ coming. We pray as you study the story of Immanuel this Advent season, that your soul will feel its’ worth—that you will be filled with the fullness of joy in Christ. We pray this Christmas you’ll remember that one holy night long ago with gratitude and wonder and sing out
“O Holy Night! A thrill of hope—the weary world rejoices.”
Below are our 4 Advent Readings
December 3 – Week 1 – HOPE
On the first day of Advent we light the candle that reminds us of the HOPE we have in Jesus. Long ago, God promised His people that one day a king would come who would be the light shining in the darkness. This Holy One would be their savior. God kept His promise to Israel, and He keeps His promises to us. We are filled with Hope because we know that God has good things in store for those who love and depend on Him.
John 1:9 says
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” –
The promised one was coming. All Israel waited with anticipation for the Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6 reads
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
Would this child be The ONE that Israel hoped for?
He would be called The Holy One – Luke 1:35 says “Therefore the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
He would also be called Savior – Matthew 1:21 says “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.”
Jesus, the Holy one, Our Savior, brought HOPE to the world. God gave His children the exact messages they needed at just the right time. Jesus did not only tell us about a coming hope. He is our HOPE.
December 10 – Week 2 – PEACE
Today we light the second candle of Advent, the candle of peace, to remember the forgiveness offered to us through Jesus Christ which brings us peace with the Father through the Son. Once our sins were like stains of red, but in Jesus, they are washed white. Now nothing separates us from God. We are invited into God’s presence, not as sinners as we once were, but as God’s sons and daughters. We can now come close to Jesus and be comforted by our Father in Heaven.
Isaiah 1:18b says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool.”
Jesus arrived as a baby in Bethlehem to bring peace, but not the kind of peace we all long for in this world. The peace Jesus brought was reconciliation first with God, and then with men. The angels spoke these words to the shepherds on that hillside: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors.” Luke 2:14
Colossians 1: 19 says, “For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Paul writes about this same kind of peace in the letter to the Corinthians. He writes, “All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
God’s peace was extended to us through Jesus, and that peace can be spread to those around us. As we light this candle, let us reflect on the peace Jesus brings to each one of us.
December 17 – Week 3 – JOY
Together let’s light the third candle of Advent. This is the candle of JOY. We have endless reasons to praise God. On the first Christmas, thousands of years ago, God gave us the best gift – a little baby named Jesus. Through that same Jesus our sins are forgiven and we can experience abundant life with Him. This is the time to celebrate the awaited King… with great joy!
Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless His name.”
The shepherds were filled with wonder and awe when they heard the words of the heavenly host say “Don’t be afraid. For look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) We praise the Father for sending us the Son because the Son brings salvation to all who believe. This is good news. It is the news of the gospel and it brings us joy in both knowing Him as our own, and in sharing Him with others.
Revelation 5:12 documents the voices of the angels in heaven who will sing:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
As we light this third candle of Advent, let us be thankful and full of praise, reflecting on the present and future joy this King of Kings will bring. Jesus fills us with joy because He has given us Himself.
December 24 – Week 4 – LOVE
In this Advent season, we have waited with HOPE for the coming Savior. We have remembered the PEACE He brought in the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation with the Father. We have celebrated His first coming with JOY and with thanksgiving.
Today as we light the fourth candle, we remember that God is LOVE. God loves us unconditionally. While Jesus was here on earth he healed the sick, cared for the poor, mended broken hearts, and forgave those who did not deserve it. In Jesus, that love was demonstrated on the cross and in the resurrection. It will one day be complete when Christ returns. His purpose to love will be fulfilled.
But for today, while we await that second advent, we light this candle of LOVE, and remember that God’s love can be extended to others through our actions. As believers in Christ, we are the light of God’s love here on earth.
1 John 4:7, 10-11 says, B”eloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. … 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And most succinctly in 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.”
As we light this fourth candle, let us pray:
Lord, let us be aware of your grace extended to us.
In this holiday season, may we know your presence within our hearts.
May we experience your unconditional love.
May we be aware and care for those around us who hurt and suffer during this time of celebration.
In love, let us reach out to them with your hope, peace and joy.
You could have saved yourself, but you loved us too much.
Let us now wait with expectation for your second Advent, when you return as King. AMEN.