This is really the first year that I’ve consciously thought about advent season and what it means for believers. In my vocabulary, advent meant a countdown to Christmas with a fun shaped chocolate for each day. I got the celebration aspect right, but I was celebrating presents to come and yummy food that I’d get to eat instead of celebrating that Jesus has come and will come again. This advent season I’ve really been reflecting on what it means to celebrate Jesus’ first and second comings and I’m here to welcome you into that a little bit.
I’ll start with what people are most familiar with: celebrating Jesus’ birth. In Luke 2, angels show up to tell shepherds that Jesus has been born. The angels praise God saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is
pleased!” (v 14)
Jesus’ birth and death means that “those with whom he is pleased” applies to YOU. Christmas isn’t just a time to get a bunch of stuff, but it’s a season to remember that Jesus first came to be born on earth in order to save each of us from sin because we aren’t able to get out of it on our own. We can celebrate with fellow believers that this is reality for us and take our celebration a step further by sharing our joy with our friends who don’t know Jesus. We have an unending joy in Jesus that deserves to be shared with those we love and even those we don’t, because he left his home in heaven for every one of us to know him.
I don’t spend much of November or December focused on that truth. Usually, I’m doing stressed out Christmas shopping. I have put so much worth in gifting the perfect present that’s touching and personalized, but also something the person will actually use or decorate with or something. So much of why I forget to celebrate advent is because I’m wrapped up in what I’m wrapping. We can be filled with peace during the hectic holiday season because our joy doesn’t come from what’s wrapped under the tree. It comes from a baby wrapped in cloth, asleep in a manger.
Celebrating the birth of Jesus was a part of advent that I was already semi familiar with, but Jesus coming again is a newer celebration concept for me. We don’t know the day that Jesus is going to come again so we can’t create a countdown calendar for his return, but we can use advent season as a time to refocus our mindset of patient expectation. I don’t mean just sitting on our couches and spending all our money on presents for ourselves because we know Jesus is coming back. There is work to be done here and now that can be done with gladness because Jesus is coming back to gift us the kingdom that he’s prepared for us. We’ve inherited his kingdom not by sitting around, but by feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing those who are naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, by caring for those around us with a joy that’s focused on Jesus’ return (Matthew 25:35-40). Celebrating that Jesus will come again means loving others in the same way that Jesus does, gently and deeply.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the place of lamenting and hurting in light of advent. The last blog post by Andrea Gaston was a big help for me in recognizing that lamenting is just as important to advent as celebration is. I would recommend reading her piece if you’re wanting to hear more. I connect well with music and have included two songs that have helped me connect more to my emotions surrounding advent. These might help you as well, so give them a listen!
Light of the World | Lauren Daigle
This is a song that I love because I think it captures how people in the time of Jesus felt and celebrated knowing the messiah was born and also how we feel now waiting for him to come again. There's so much celebration in these lyrics that I can't help but worship.
Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus | Red Mountain Music
Basically, if you don't feel like reading anything I've written, this song sums up the celebration of Jesus being born and his eventual coming again really well. We sang this at Parkview North Campus at the start of advent and it's been in my head ever since.
Most of my thoughts about advent began because of a Parkview wide women's study that I've been a part of these past few weeks. It's a great study even if you don't do it during the Christmas season! The study is called His Name Is... and can be found here. I highly recommend going through it with friends and celebrating the true joy of advent in community.
By Gabi Houk