– and tell us how the Messiah can be found and how can we see God’s love in Him.
On the surface it sounds simple enough. I had two weeks to think about this and after many quiet hours of reflection, I realized it’s not that easy after all. But before I address the questions given to me in my invitation to preach to that audience, let me take care of two basic things first.
First let me explain “Advent”, a term we don’t use often in our circle though the evangelical-not-so-liturgically-oriented-stream of Christianity celebrates it in different forms. “Advent” is simply the season of the year leading up to Christmas. The word (derived from Latin) itself means “arrival” or “an appearing or coming into place”. Christians speak of Christ’s “first Advent” and “second Advent” – that is his first and second comings to earth. So basically Advent focuses on expectation and anticipation of Christ's birth in the season leading up to Christmas.
Second, if it focuses on expectation and anticipation how come the early Hebrews, whose whole national life was cued with this expectation, missed his first coming completely? Were they not anticipating? Did they not see the signs, the symbols and the accurately fulfilled predictions written in their holy writings? Were they too close to the “forest” that they couldn’t see the wood? They not only failed to see their promised Messiah but they antagonistically rejected him when he told that “I am He”.
How then can we, living so far removed from the ancient prophecies of his Advent find him? The simple fact is you can’t—not with natural eyes. Unless you are given spiritual eyes you will not see. I am reminded of what the Savior says, “They may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand”. So unless we are blessed with spiritual eyes we’ll never see and never understand. This spiritual vision is the real gift of Christmas.
Expectation and spiritual vision are the ingredients to enable us to see God’s love in the Messiah. I remember two characters in the Christmas drama – Simeon and Anna in Luke’s gospel – who showed us this. They spent their whole lives in the Temple expecting, waiting and anticipating the first Advent. Simeon was “waiting” (Luke 2:25) and Anna was “looking” (Luke 2:38). “Waiting” and “looking” in these two verses are the English renditions of the same Greek verb which means “waiting for someone to appear and to receive him to oneself”. It isn’t just passive waiting.
So spiritual vision and expectant waiting are the ways to see the Messiah and to see God’s love in him. Other ways will disappoint.
Can celebrating Advent be a good reminder of what the season is truly all about?
Yes, and therein lies its greatest value.
Pastor Robert Chew