Advent and Why We Celebrate

Advent and Why We Celebrate

The word Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming, which comes from the Greek word parousia.

In the fourth and fifth centuries, Advent was a season of preparation for the celebration of Epiphany, a festival on January 6, commemorating God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to Jesus, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, and His first miracle at Cana. During the Advent season, Christians would spend 40 days in prayer, repentance, and fasting for the coming of Epiphany; originally, Advent was little connected to Christmas.

By the sixth century, Roman Christians tied Advent to the coming of Christ—but not His coming in a manger. Advent became a celebration of Christ’s second coming. It was during the Middle Ages that Advent was linked to Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem.

Today, Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The new Christian year begins with a 12-day celebration from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6.

The Church in these last days is much like the Israelites at the end of the Old Testament. We find ourselves, as it were, in exile in a foreign land, waiting with eager expectation of Christ’s second coming.

Advent combines the elements of remembrance and anticipation. We reflect and remember and we anticipate His second coming. To balance these elements, the first two Sundays of Advent look forward to Christ’s second coming, and the last two Sundays look backward to remember Christ’s first coming.

Though it may be challenging to keep in mind in the midst of holiday decorating and shopping, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting and reflection. One catechism describes Advent in this way: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming.”

Advent celebrates Christ’s coming as Emmanuel, God with us! Advent celebrates God’s coming in Acts 2 at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Advent celebrates and anticipates Christ’s soon return.

The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red candles and four large white candles inside the ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays and the four white candles were lit on Sundays. Eventually, the Advent wreath was created out of evergreens, symbolizing everlasting life in the midst of winter and death. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love and eternal life in Christ.

The most common Advent tradition involves four or five candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas and the fifth on Christmas Eve. We often think of Christmas colors of red, green, silver, and gold. However, these are not the common Advent celebration colors. Three of the four candles are purple or violet representing royalty and repentance. These three candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays. The third Sunday candle is pink, representing the joy of Advent. The fifth, a white candle, is lit on Christmas Eve, representing the purity and holiness of Christ and His birth. Oftentimes, the first candle is used to remind us of God’s creation and the forgiveness granted at the garden. The second candle reminds us of God’s incarnation. The third, represents the joy found in God’s covenant with David of an eternal seed and redemption from sin. The fourth, represents the second coming of Christ.

Why should believers make the Advent festival a family and church priority?

  1. Advent reminds us we are not the center of God’s plan

We are reminded throughout Scripture of God’s eternal plan. Romans 5:8 reminds us that while we were still sinners, enemies of God, Christ gave His life for us. Revelation unfolds the eternal portrait of redemption. Hebrews declares the mystery and revelation of this eternal plan throughout the ages. Continually we are reminded that we are included in this eternal plan, and are benefactors of it, but we are certainly not the main characters in the story.

  1. Advent reminds us of those who have gone before us

Hebrews 11 reminds us of the faith of many of those who have gone before us who by faith obtained a good testimony, but their faith is connected to ours (Heb 11:40). Many generations awaited the Messiah’s first coming. They endured hardships, were pilgrims in exile, were persecuted. Advent reminds us of their faith and humbles us to see God’s plan of the ages unfolding. We are reminded to endure with longsuffering in an evil age.

  1. Advent reminds us to reflect

In the hustles and bustle of holidays, we are reminded to slow down, remember and celebrate. The end of the year is not about gift giving and decorations, but so much more. We remember the ages of prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. We remember the covenant of God with David for an eternal seed. We remember the generations that awaited the Messiah’s appearing. We remember Simeon and Anna who eagerly awaited the Messiah in the temple. We remember Christ’s coming in a manger and that God came into His creation. We remember Christ’s ministry on earth and His heavenly ministry today. We remember the prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming. We remember who He has called us to be.

  1. Advent reminds us of Christian discontentment

Christ’s coming, crucifixion, and resurrection would have been enough—more than enough, but He gives so much more and calls us to hunger and thirst after Him. It is our blessing to cultivate and nurture our desire for Him. There is a longing in our hearts for His second coming. There is a longing for Him to reveal Himself to us in Scripture and in our worship. Creation is groaning for this revelation (Ro 8:23). The martyrs cry out, “how long, O Lord” (Rev 6:10). Jesus blessed hunger and thirsting for righteousness in the beatitudes. Advent encourages our holy discontentment.

  1. Advent encourages us in the promises of God

As we reflect on God’s promises and His answers of the past, we are able to have great anticipation for what He will do ahead of us. We have confidence in His promise of His soon return and thus we are inspired to evangelize, to continue on in our fellowship together and brotherly love, and willing to endure suffering with great joy. Advent reminds us that as God has met many others in the unfolding of His eternal plan, He also will meet us today. He truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)

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I’m excited to announce that this new book will be released December 1, 2018.

Unprecedented Days: 90 Days of Fire is a book that will transform your Christianity to a full pursuit of Christ and life beyond the veil. The profound insights of this book are combined with quotes from others who pave the journey of spiritual awakening. Everyday fuel the fire of your passion with a fresh word of encouragement and revelation. Whether the words are challenging or up lifting, they will add depth and riches in your spiritual journey.

Pre-Sales of the book will be available soon. Be looking for the online order options and book release party information.

Special thanks to Mt. Zion Ridge Press for publishing this book!

 

Just Relax

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers–most of which are never even seen–don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Matthew 6:30-33, The Message

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a stressful situation and wondered how you got there? Even worse–worried about how you were going to get out? Maybe there was a time when your young child was stressed out and as the parent you realized the situation would quickly change and there was no need for the drama.

I love how The Message Bible phrases Jesus’ words here: What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax. We have a saying we use frequently: Just Drink. In other words–just chill. Just relax and have a big drink of God’s River of Living Water. Living Water will change your stress into joy! Like the parent above, we comfort the child and say, just relax; it’s going to be okay.

After all, stress and anxiety stem from our need to get something. We are stressed about someone not meeting our expectations. We are stressed because we spent more than our income. We are anxious over what the doctor might say. These are all things we are receiving or not receiving that cause stress. We worry about what we are getting.

Why not turn loose of the worry about getting and have joy in giving? Jesus wants us to stop worrying about our getting and be occupied with God’s giving. What is God trying to get into my life? What do I need to turn loose of in order to receive what God is giving? God’s giving is sow and you reap; give and it will be given. If you find yourself stressed about the doctor’s report, go and sow joy into someone else. If you find yourself battling loneliness, go and be a friend to another. Anxious about your finances–give an offering.

A while back I did an illustration with an apple. We know when eating an apple we do not eat the seeds of the apple. When we cut the apple, we immediately find the seeds and remove them so they are not eaten. Our income is the same. When God gives–we look for the seed. When our receiving becomes a giving, we move from worry about what we are getting to joy in God’s giving.

God has your everyday human concerns handled. This reminds me of someone going into work to do a job they have not been assigned to do. It’s like someone that is a bookkeeper trying to do the janitor’s job. The bookkeeper can be stressed out and anxious about the cobwebs in the building, but they are worried about something outside of their responsibilities. The boss in this organization would remind the bookkeeper that they are concerned about something that they have no control over. We often try to do God’s job when we have no control over Him or His responsibilities. He says our job is to seek first His Kingdom. The rest is up to Him.

Are you worried and anxious because you want something that God is not giving? Are you driven by a need to get and God is trying to give something greater? Maybe you are anxious about what God is giving and you would rather hang on to what you already have.

The more you saturate, or as The Message says, steep, your life in God, the more you walk in His reality, His provision, His vision. It is easier to trust Him when your life is full of Him. It is less stressful when God is the center focus–not the fear over what you are getting or not getting in this life. God has clothed the wildflowers of the field in splendor; He will certainly take care of me! Just relax! He’s got you covered!

 

Regeneration

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3, NKJV

This is a word we do not commonly hear these days. Regeneration is defined as being reborn or formed again. Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains regeneration as follows:

This word literally means a “new birth.” The Greek word so rendered (palingenesia) is used by classical writers with reference to the changes produced by the return of spring. In Matthew 19:28 the word is equivalent to the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). It denotes that change of heart elsewhere spoken of as a passing from death to life; becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus; being born again; a renewal of the mind; a resurrection from the dead; a being quickened. This change is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. It originates not with man but with God. As to the nature of the change, it consists in the implanting of a new principle or disposition in the soul; the impartation of spiritual life to those who are by nature “dead in trespasses and sins.” The necessity of such a change is emphatically affirmed in Scripture.

Here in John 3, Jesus describes regeneration as being born again. The instruction to Nicodemus was not something that could be accomplished through his efforts in studying the law or through good works. Nicodemus could not be regenerated by being in a dignified, prestigious religious office. Regeneration occurs only as a work of the Spirit of God.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6, NKJV)

This is the life of God at work in the soul of man. As we repent, we are made new. Redemption’s effect is this work of regeneration. This is more than turning over a new leaf or endeavoring to be a better you. Regeneration is a complete overhaul of what was. What was once dead is now alive. The sin that was once acceptable is now detestable. The enjoyment of divine things surpasses the hobbies and interests of this life. That which is godly and honorable are now delightful and pleasing attributes.

The sin that held your conscience captive for so long is erased and the skeletons in the closet of your mind are removed. The Spirit of God transforms you finally and forever. His work is complete and permanent.

Regeneration makes Christ and His work appealing and attractive. Nicodemus was a ruler in the church, and should not be associated with Jesus’ ministry. Regeneration changed His life and changed His desires. The same man who should not associate with Christ was found burying Him after the crucifixion. He brought 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to anoint the dead body of Jesus and prepare Him for burial. What changed in Nicodemus? What made him go from a man that sought Christ in the secrecy and cover of the night hour to one who would publicly remove the body of Jesus from the cross and care for the mutilated remains? Regeneration! The words of Jesus echoed clearly that day as Nicodemus anointed that precious body for burial. Nicodemus, unless a man is born again. Nicodemus, I am the resurrection and the life. As you anoint my body for burial, this body will not remain in the grave. Just as those who come to me, they will be born again. Though they may appear to be dead, I will make them live!

It is time to allow the anointing of Christ to come upon you that you may live. The regenerating power of God can flow through your life and make you come alive—really alive. Christ is the King who makes all things new. If He can regenerate the lost person, He can certainly quicken you. If you are saddened or discouraged, His anointing power can awaken you. The one who came out of the tomb can bring breakthrough in your life. Like Nicodemus, go to Him at the cross and let the power of Gethsemane’s hill flow into you. Run quickly with Nicodemus to the garden tomb where Christ’s body was laid, and see the resurrection life that can flow into you. Behold Christ today and He will bring life into your weary world!

 

Revive Me

Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
Psalm 143:11

Life is filled with trouble. The word used by David for trouble means distress or trouble; sorrow, pain, anguish. David faced the troubles of life. His leader turned on him and tried to kill him. People he trusted left him. His own family tried to defame him. Sin always invites distress. The consequences of sin are sure to find us out–whether by our own sin, the sin of others, or the sin of this world. Sin will always come around and bite us. The words of the snake may be enticing, but they are filled with venom.

If you have suffered the effects of sin, this verse offers hope: Revive Me! David was asking God to sustain his life; to quicken his life in order that he may live. At times the effects of sin may weary you to the point of depression and a desire to no longer live. The effects of sin may take away your strength, your ambition or zeal. But in the midst of his agony, David cried to the Lord for life! This is supernatural life. It is the God-kind of life given by the work of His presence. It’s the life of God in the soul man. Romans 8:11 tells us that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead will quicken us.

Is the Spirit of God living in you? Have you become the temple of the Holy Spirit. If He has taken up residence within you, you have the same person that brought the crucified Christ out of His grave. The same Spirit that quickened Lazarus is in you. The same Spirit that raised the widow’s son is in you. The same Spirit that raised the Shunammite’s son is living in you. And if He is in you, He can revive you to new life.

God will work this miracle in you based not on your merit, but according to His name. David said, “for your name’s sake!” Translated from Hebrew, David is saying, “according to or for the purpose of your reputation or glory” quicken or revive me. It is the desire of God to revive you, not by the works of your own righteousness that is like dirty laundry, but according to His righteousness and fame which is perfect and holy. His motive in reviving you is pure, without manipulation or ulterior motives. He is not demanding a hidden agreement; there is no fine print to read. God desires that you be revived according to his righteousness for His own glory.

What a divine picture! God desires you to be quickened and full of life that His glory might be put on display for others to see. You are a living epistle. You are God’s masterpiece. He has displayed you for the world to see His work in you. You are incapable of reviving yourself. No person when they are dying are able to administer resuscitation on themselves. We must have the hand of God massage our heart to life and breathe life into our nostrils.

Lord, revive me! I do not know what others may decide. I do not know how others may respond to my new life. All I know is that I am dying without you. For your glory and my enjoyment, will you come?! The same Spirit that regenerated me at salvation can renew the joy of my salvation. The same Spirit that made me alive to Christ, can sustain and quicken this divine life I am living. Have the troubles of life got you down? Christ can raise you up and quicken you to new life!

Night of Hope

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God
Acts 16:25, NKJV

Can you imagine being beaten and imprisoned for no crime other than being used of God to set a demon possessed person free? Paul and Silas were completely innocent of a crime, but completely guilty of loving the hurting and the broken.

Three years ago, our church launched an outreach called Night of Hope. We were asking God to give us a vision to reach our community in a unique way. Much like Paul and Silas, this ministry has come to people often at their darkest hour. We have the privilege of loving those who feel as though they are in bondage or are broken by life’s hang ups and hurts.

For three years we have given away groceries, hot meals, haircuts, spa treatments, medical screenings, chiropractor adjustments, vaccinations, resources and community assistance. Nearly 100,000 meals have been served. But beyond the tangible ministry, the Gospel has been preached and demonstrated. We have walked with families through death, drug addiction, financial hardship, and salvation.

What had become the midnight hour for Paul and Silas came as the result of bringing the radiance of the Son into a darkened life. Here was a woman bound to her masters and bound to a demon. The fortune telling woman encountered God. In one moment, the brightness of God’s glory invaded her life and liberated her from bondage. It was that miracle that brought Paul and Silas to the prison. But at midnight—in their darkness—they were able to sing out songs of praise because they trusted in God. They had seen His power liberate the demoniac, and they knew that His same power could liberate them from their prison walls.

Are you afflicted today in bondage and brokenness? Has hardship overcome you in this life? Have you seen the spiritual condition in which you lay helpless? The light of God’s glory can liberate you from all oppression! Are you a friend of God discouraged by circumstance? Have you come into a dark place because of your good works? Do you, like Lazarus, feel you have given all for your friend Jesus, and yet He has allowed you to die? Be encouraged! Jesus is on His way to your tomb. Be edified! The resurrection life that liberated the demoniac has come to liberate you.

You can look at your night and say this is a place of hope. Others may have prospered from this woman’s fortune telling, but what had been sown in darkness would now be reaped in everlasting life. God took her out of her night, and brought her into His marvelous light that she might proclaim His wonderful works. God delivered Paul and Silas out of their night and into the light of His joy.

God brought hope to Paul and Silas, and He brought hope to the prison jailer. In the midst of Paul and Silas’s night of beating, torment, and imprisonment God used them to bring salvation to the jailer and his family. In just a matter of hours they witnessed the power of God set the demoniac free, save the jailer, and save the jailer’s family. God delivered the tormented, the tortured, and the trembling persons. He brought hope in the midst of hardship. He will do the same for you! Today might be your Night of Hope!

One Desire Above All

One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord.
Psalm 27:4, NKJV

Our lives have the tendency to be filled with so many things: family, relationships, career, finances, health. Many times, most of us could spend hours talking about the many things happening in our lives.

Here we find David declaring out his single focus and single passion—God I need you more than anything. Not that David was always perfected in His focus, but when he was distracted, he was quick to repent and return to this one desire.

We are all born with desire. Babies from birth want to be held and nurtured by their mother and cry for this affection. Babies communicate their desire for food when they are hungry. Desire still motivates us to action as we get older. We see and experience things in life that are pleasing and pleasurable and thus desires are formed.

How are spiritual desires formed and fed? David answers this in Psalms 27 also. The fulfillment of the desire of His heart also feeds the desire from which it springs forth: I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord. Observing God in His house and gazing upon His beauty ignites a desire for more of Him.

Observing God in His house is to enjoy His presence in your private times of prayer and worship. Seeing and savoring His sweetness happens as you see Him move among your spiritual family in church or small groups. Delighting in God can be done as you see Him revealed in Scripture. Observe Him in His splendor in the avenues by which He reveals Himself and you will desire to see Him more.

Gazing upon the beauty of the Lord will leave you in awe and wonder. Like Jeremiah, you will say, There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might(Jeremiah 10:6, ESV).

Have you been awakened to the Lord’s beauty? Like David, is your heart beating with a single desire to know Him passionately and intimately? If not, let this be your goal before God: to observe Him in His sanctuary. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Like Moses, be bold enough to ask God to show you His glory. God never disappoints, and one moment of revelation will change your life—it will change your desires. Like David, be quick to repent and return to your first love.

As you see Him, allow desire for Him to rise and continue. Do not be like to foolish virgins that are lulled to sleep when the Master is calling. The world and your carnal nature will tell you that desiring God is emotionalism, irrational, or radical. The writers of the Bible will tell you another story. The Holy Spirit will reveal something greater. Allow your passion for God to grow. Deepen your desire for more of Him!