Sunday, November 27, 2016

Celebrating The First Sunday Of Advent - Some Thoughts

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Luke 2:25-32 "And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Today is the first Sunday of what Christians call the season of "Advent". The term "advent" derives from a Latin word adventus meaning "coming" or "arrival". Advent season developed in the history of the church to focus believers upon remembering Jesus' first coming and anticipating His second coming. In many churches, advent season is inaugurated by the lighting of what is called an "advent wreath", pictured below:

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Different variations on the wreath's design and meanings of the candles will differ from one Christian tradition to the next. In general though, there are four candles: three purple and one pink. The first two candles respectively stand for "hope" and "faith". The third candle is a pink one, symbolizing "joy". The fourth candle signifies "peace", with the final "white candle" picturing Christ Himself as the culmination of advent. In some versions of the wreath, this fifth candle, often deemed the "Christ candle", is usually lit on a Christmas Eve service. 

In all versions of the advent season that this author has read, there is near uniform agreement that the first candle, representing the first Sunday in advent, carries the theme of "hope". In the opening passage of today's post, we find the Christ child brought to the temple for the sake of dedicating Him to the Lord. We mustn't forget of course that the little babe held in Mary and Josephs' arms was the Person of the Son, truly God and, having his humanity conceived by the Spirit in the virgin' womb - truly man. 

John's opening prologue in John 1:9 indicates that the Person of the Son was the "light" that lights every man, meaning that through the general revelation of God's Deity, the Son's glory was made known to all people, in all places and in all times. According to Bible scholar Mark Bailey of Dallas Theological Seminary, there is a manner in which every person has had awareness of the Son of God in a general sense. Mankind in general had rejected the light of God's glory in general revelation. John goes on to indicate that when Jesus Christ came "to his own" (i.e the Jewish people) via the virginal conception of His incarnated humanity, His own people rejected Him. Thankfully, grace was at work in those days, with John reporting these words in John 1:12-13 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." 

All humanity was plunged into darkness after the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. God had the torchlight of the Gospel dotting history through the communication of the Gospel by way of His prophets. All of those torches pointed the way to "hope", "The Hope", the hope of salvation brought by no less than God Himself. As the Old Testament would progress, God began to give hints in passages such as Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7 and Micah 5:2 that this coming one would not only be God, but God in human flesh. The light of uncreated deity would burn brightly on the frail wick of perfect humanity. 

Hence when Simeon was holding the infant Christ in His arms, He was holding "The Hope", advent's promise, Messiah, Son of God - Jesus Christ. Today as we begin this advent season, let's reflect on how much hope Jesus Christ brings into the lives of those who trust in Him by faith. The wintertime months feature less light, and more darkness. As we journey further into history, times grow darker and shorter. Thankfully, whenever we think of Jesus Christ, the light of hope, His advent some 2,000 years ago provide "hope" in the midst of despair and light amidst the darkness. May His light of hope shine in your life today on this first Sunday of advent.