Why We Need Advent

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God an Savior Jesus Christ…” 
Titus 2:11-13

We desperately need a renewed sense of Advent. No. I don’t mean the kind of Advent that is just a countdown to Christmas. Put away your Advent Calendars; those get the whole meaning of Advent backwards. We don’t need to countdown to Christmas, or any more reminders of how many shopping days are left. The world’s got that taken care of.
If you do need help, here’s Toyboy and Santa:

I grew up with this on TV in Wichita. Toyboy was the greatest!

No, what I mean by Advent, and what was originally meant by Advent, was an expectation of the eminent return of Christ. Christmas celebrates Christ’s birth as foretold by Scripture some 2,000 years ago. Advent is the time to refocus our attention on Jesus’ return, as foretold by Scriptures as well.

Christ is coming back! Have you given that much thought today? If we aren’t watching and waiting, if our greatest hope is not the coming again of our Lord and Savior, then do we really know Him? Are we really living in Him? Are we really living for Him?

We need a renewed longing for the return of Christ.

His return is taking time, but rather than absence making the heart grow fonder, it has instead made our heart go wander. Instead of watching and waiting and being prepared for His coming, we have dug in deep roots here and have become entangled in the business and concerns of this madding world. Instead of laying up our treasures in heaven, we have amassed fortunes here on earth, and thus fight and toil to preserve and protect our dynasties from rust and moth and thief (Matthew 6:20). While we tip our hat to the promise of paradise that awaits us, we live as though this life here and now is all that really matters. We think that justice must be swift, and that we must see the results in our lifetime, or the cosmos will be out of balance for generations to come. We continue to put ourselves in the middle of the garden, where God alone belongs, and we think we are fit to reign and rule in His stead.

This is why we need a renewed sense of Advent. We need to be reminded, regularly, that Christ is returning so that we may live accordingly. Perhaps every day should begin with the question, “If Christ were coming tomorrow, what should I do today?” To live each day in faithful obedience, so that when our master returns he will find us as faithful and wise servants (Matthew 24:45-51). We need to be reminded that the treasures of this world are fading, but at God’s right hand are eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). We need to be reminded that vengeance and justice are the Lord’s work (Rom 12:19), that the Lord comes with a sword (Isa 66:16; Rev 19:11-16), and He alone will make all things right. We need Advent, to help us lift our eyes to the heavens where we expect his return.

This is why Titus 2:11-13 so perfectly summarizes the Christian life. We begin with the grace of God that has appeared – the birth of Christ, and His life, death, and resurrection – bringing salvation for all people. This is the gospel, the beginning of new life in Christ. Then passage describes the ongoing sanctifying work of Christ in the lives of believers – the training in righteousness, renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions, learning to live self-controlled and upright lives. But then there is the arc of the story, that which is there from the beginning (Gospel) and the middle (training) and through to the very end; namely, Our Blessed Hope in the Appearing of the Glory of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We are born again into this living hope, the watchful anticipation of His coming glory.

The last words of the book of Revelation remind us of Christ’s promise, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” And the reply of all the faithful is, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” Until His return, may the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

He Came for You

“[The Grace of God]… which now has been manifested
through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,
who abolished death
and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”
(2 Timothy 1:10)

Here we are, once again, in the first week of another Advent Season. The Christmas decorations are up, the lights are shining, the music is playing, and The Christmas Story movie is undoubtedly already playing on a continuous cycle from now until the end of the month. Ah Christmas!

I’ve been especially struck by the idea of Advent this year. The word “advent” means “coming.” In the Advent Season, we celebrate Christ’s coming for our salvation, and are encouraged to remember, long for, and prepare for His glorious return. He has come, and He is coming again!

In my sermons this Advent, I’ve been asking the question, “Why Did Jesus Come?”  We’ve been looking at those verses where Jesus tells us why He came (to bring fire, to fulfill the law…).  Still, maybe a better question to ask would be, “For Whom Did Jesus Come?”

Thinking about the way Christ came to be with us, and who He came to be with – just thinking about this is staggering.

He came, from the realm of glory, to be born, meek and mild, the King of Glory enthroned in a humble manger. He came, heralded by the Heavenly Host of Angels, and was greeted by lowly, working-class shepherds. He came, full of grace and truth, teaching the wisdom of God, and He was surrounded by the blind, the sick, the poor, the outcast – all those who had been rejected by the world. He came full of righteousness and bringing the judgment of God, and was friend to sinners, the prostitutes and the tax collectors.

He came to these. He came for these. The Incarnate Word of God, Emmanuel, God with us, to seek and to save the lost.

Christ is the Lord of the universe – “by him all things were created… and in him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17) – therefore we must meet Him as He is. If we want to find Him, to know Him, to walk with Him, to be found with Him, then we need to first recognize ourselves among those for whom He came. We have to see our brokenness and our desperate need for a savior to come. We need to realize we are the blind, the sick, the poor, the sinner; we are the ones for whom He came. As long as we keep denying this truth about ourselves, then Jesus will always be coming for someone else, one of them over there. But once we realize who we are, and that we are the ones Jesus came for – then we will know Him and we will know great joy.

This is the tremendous grace and mercy that we find at Christmas, the beautiful reminder of God’s love in Advent. This is why the heavens rang out with “good news of great joy.” He has come for us. We did not deserve it, we could not earn it, but God loved us so much that He sent His Son for us. We are the ones for whom He came. He has come to be Savior to those dead in their sins, Shepherd to the lost, Healer of the sick, Light for those in darkness, Hope for those in despair, Friend of sinners.

This is the grace which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. This is the grace that comes to us in Advent. “Glory to God in the Highest!”

SDG