BreakPoint: Advent

Jesus Is Coming, and This Time It’s Different

TV commercials, radio stations, and shopping malls are all proclaiming that it’s the Christmas season! But actually, it isn’t.

Last Sunday, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, in churches all around the world, the Gospel reading was Matthew 25: 31-46.

The passage opens with words that should make our hearts soar, or, perhaps, shiver with dread: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

As the passage makes clear, Christ’s second coming will be very different from his first. He will return in glory, not obscurity. He will return as the King of the Universe, not as a nobody in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire. And this time, He will do the judging.

This, and not shopping, or who saw whom kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe, is what we’re supposed to be thinking about these next four weeks, the season known as Advent.

Now if you’re wondering, “Wait, isn’t this the Christmas season?” the answer is, well, “no.” Of course, we wouldn’t know that from watching television, where some networks have been running “Christmas” movies—none of which ever mention Jesus—since late October.

Beginning this Sunday, December 3rd through Christmas Eve, we’re in the season of Advent, according to the Church calendar. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “come to.” Thus, Advent is the season Christians anticipate the celebration of God’s coming to live and die as one of us. And to better appreciate the immensity of that gift, we are to put ourselves in the place of ancient Israel which yearned for the promised Messiah who would set things right.

One of the ways to do this is through hymns. The ancient Advent carol “Creator of the Stars of Night,” which dates from the 7th century, expresses this Old Testament yearning in a way that has literally stood the test of time.

“Thou, grieving that the ancient curse/ Should doom to death a universe/ Hast found the medicine, full of grace/ To save and heal a ruined race,” the hymn reads.

The “medicine” required to “save and heal a ruined race” was Jesus, as Paul told the Philippians, emptying himself and becoming obedient to death.

But that’s not the entire story. We also sing “At Whose dread Name, majestic now/ All knees must bend, all hearts must bow/ And things celestial Thee shall own/ And things terrestrial, Lord alone.”

That’s because Advent is not only a time of anticipating Christ’s first coming but also anticipating the next and final time Jesus comes to Earth. And, I repeat, this coming will be very different from the first: The same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus will return as the “judge of the living and the dead,” and “his kingdom will have no end.”

This makes Advent not only a time of reflection, but also a time of repentance. This season is a time to examine our lives and ask ourselves whether we are sheep or goats. Are we living, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for ourselves or for Him who died for us and rose again?

Unfortunately, very little in contemporary culture, including both inside as well outside our churches, inclines us towards a proper observance of Advent. Thus, we have to be intentionally counter-cultural about it, and we must teach our children what the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be about.

A good place to start is “The Advent Project” from Biola University. I also love Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas,” which is available at the Colson Center online bookstore. And if you click on this commentary at BreakPoint.org, I’ll link you to other resources for Advent that will help keep focus where it needs to be this time of year: on Jesus’ two different, yet equally glorious, comings.

 

Advent: Jesus Is Coming, and This Time It’s Different

Be joyful, reverent—and intentional–as you and your family prepare to commemorate the incarnation of the  Son of God and His return in glory during this season of Advent.

 

 

Resources

The Advent Project 2017
  • Online Devotional Series | Biola University
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Westminster John Knox Press
Too Much Christmas, too Little Advent?: The Joy of Anticipation
  • Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | December 7, 2016
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent
  • John Piper | Crossway Publishers | August 2014

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Phoenix1977

    “Beginning this Sunday, December 3rd through Christmas Eve, we’re in the season of Advent, according to the Church calendar.”
    The keyword here being “church”. By now it should be clear to pretty much everyone the church has little to no influence or authority in the world of man anymore. So people call it the Christmas season and those insisting on calling it Advent are just voices in the wilderness.

    • Steve

      What do you care, Phoenix, if Christians call it Advent?
      No one is trying to get you to call it Advent or to not serve someone or treat someone if they don’t call it Advent.
      Why do you feel the need to pound away so incessantly at Christianity even when it is about something that does not affect non-Christians at all?
      You write about Christians not letting others be; why don’t you practice what you preach?
      I think it is ironic that you would argue that it should be called the Christmas season instead of Advent.
      Essentially it is you who are putting the word “Christ” back in the season! Thank you for recognizing that Christ is the meaning of the season!
      You say, “people call it the Christmas season and those insisting on calling it Advent are just voices in the wilderness.” Why then are you responding to such irrelevant voices?

      • Phoenix1977

        “What do you care, Phoenix, if Christians call it Advent?”
        Why do you or John care if people call it the Christmas season? It doesn’t affect you at all and, more importantly, resisting what the majority of people are doing won’t bring you anything.

        “Essentially it is you who are putting the word “Christ” back in the season! Thank you for recognizing that Christ is the meaning of the season!”
        Christ has nothing to do with Christmas anymore. Take a walk through town and see if you can find any reference to Jesus anywhere in the decorations, the music or the spending patterns. Christmas is a commercial event now, little more.

        “Why then are you responding to such irrelevant voices?”
        Wouldn’t you like to know …

        • Steve

          No, actually, I don’t really care about your motivation. That was a rhetorical question.
          You seem desperate to deny the meaning of Christmas. Don’t waste your energy.
          I don’t mind if other people call it the Christmas season. I took John’s article as being directed towards Christians who celebrate Christmas and the waiting (Advent) for the coming of Christ.

    • Scott

      “By now it should be clear to pretty much everyone the church has little to no influence or authority in the world of man anymore.”

      You are completely wrong when you say the church has little to no influence. Our church is growing and we just brought several nonbelievers to faith the fall. They are attending our church and telling their friends.

      Authority?.. You seem to like the idea of authority. Authority over others is not a Christian goal. God’s people only point you to His authority. If you choose not to recognize it that’s your choice… but it is ultimately a choice you will end up regretting.

      • Phoenix1977

        “but it is ultimately a choice you will end up regretting.”
        Extremely doubtful. I’d say the chance of me regretting my choices in life are zero by approximation.

        • Scott

          Unless (I would say until : – ) you find out God is real. I am hoping (praying) it won’t be too late.

  • Julie Wilson

    As I listened to the broadcast today I kept thinking of the Advent CD by “Rain for Roots” with Sandra McCracken (and others). The name of this CD is “Waiting Songs” and if you haven’t heard it yet, you are truly missing an Advent blessing! “Oh come oh come Immanuel” is done so beautifully. This is actually a children’s cd with children singing; Andrew Peterson‘s daughter Skye sings on it too.
    The Intriguing song of Mary singing to Eve and a beautiful icon to go with it can’t be missed!
    I hope to see this in your resources soon!!

    Blessings to you during this advent season and a merry Christmas as well!! : )
    And His sweet grace,
    Julie Wilson

  • David A Sholes Jr.

    Thank you for the reminder