Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. Coming from zero church background until I was 21 and then being limited to Southern Baptist life, the season of Advent is in many ways a new discovery for me. If you are in the same boat, a brief background concerning Advent may be in order. Advent is Latin for “coming” and is a season of anticipation that both reflects the waiting of the Jews (and all creation) for the Messiah and looks ahead to the second coming (Advent) of Christ. This is observed through various liturgical methods such as the lighting of candles.
My family has decided to observe Advent this year, in hopes of creating godly traditions for ourselves and Mary Grace. While we will be lighting candles, we also did not want to be merely ritualistic in our practice. So, I have been meditating on what it means to long for the return of Christ and to reflect on the importance of his Incarnation.
Initially I have been convicted by passages that speak of Israel’s rejection of Christ when He came. John 1:11 says “…his own people did not accept him.” When the Magi seek out Jesus by inquiring of Herod about the location of the “King of the Jews,” Matthew 2:3 says that Herod “…was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.” The very people who were so desperate for a Messiah, a deliverer, simply did not want Him when He came. I’m not sure why, perhaps is was how He came or how He would die. He was not what they expected in any way, so they rejected Him in every way.
I say these passages have convicted me, because I do not always long for Christ’s return. Like most young men, I have my whole life ahead of me; I want to climb mountains, travel, write books, attend my daughters initiation as a nun (or her wedding); basically, I want to live life. I’m just not ready for Heaven, at least not yet.
But perhaps the abundance of my American living has blinded me to the cruelty of this age. Perhaps I need to open the paper and read about mothers selling their 5 year-old daughters to be sex slaves only to have them raped and murdered. I need to remember my friends who have suffered from crippling diseases. I need to remember that this world needed redemption. It needs a Savior to come and set things right. A Messiah to free the captives, heal the sick, and lift up the oppressed. We need our Lord Jesus to come.
And yet, I wonder if those who say they are waiting will like what they see when He does in fact return. Will we want the evil in us removed? Will we like that not only the 5 year-old girl is set free but just maybe her murderer will be too? Will we still accept our Savior if He doesn’t meet our expectations? Will we be like Jerusalem?
Yet conviction is a lovely thing in that it leads to repentance and that leads to restoration. At Chapel, God began to reveal to me why deep down, I do eagerly await His arrival. Across the way from me was an older man, you know the type: members-only jacket, comb over, mustache, black socks and sandals; he had his eyes closed, hands extended, face turned upwards, swaying and singing his heart out to Jesus. Right beside him was the Seminary president, all prim in his perfect suit with his neatly trimmed beard. And with dignity he too sang the same words to the same God with the same devotion.
I turned from this scene to observe to Nativity set up in front of the pulpit. In it I saw extreme opposites brought together for one thing, to worship Jesus: the stench of animal dung mingled with the sweet aroma of Frankincense and myrrh, dirt and gold, kings and shepherds, donkeys and angels, all gathered around the crying, helpless, supremely weak Creator of the Universe. Truly ALL creation was on hand to praise the humble king.
I was instantly brought to the throne scene from Revelation, when every tribe, nation, and tongue is praising the lamb who was slain. As I wept, I joined the president, the old man, the angels, and the shepherds singing “Come Lord Jesus, Come!” Come Lord, indeed!
May this Advent season reignite our passions for our Lord. May it increase our resolve to be about His business while He is away: loving, witnessing, sharing, and sacrificing. May this Advent season leave us singing with all the conviction in the world, “Come Lord Jesus, come!”
Michael is a student at Denver Seminary. This reflection is nearly two years old and he is grateful for how Advent has become apart of his family’s rhythms. He has grown in anticipation of Christ’s return mainly because he has grown in suffering. You can read his new Advent reflections at his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.