Rev. Dr. Matthew M. Williams, Senior Pastor
The beginning of the liturgical calendar, which we call Advent, comes from the historic Christian celebration of the incarnation – the coming of Christ to the world. During the season of Advent, we hear the prophetic stories of the Old Testament and how the Hebrews longed for the coming of the Messiah. Advent allows us to be active in our remembrance of Israel’s longing to be liberated and how in the birth of Jesus Christ that liberation came, not only to Israel, but to the entire world.
Advent, from the Latin word adventus, invites us to anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ. As the prophets of old anticipating the coming of the Messiah, so we anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ when God’s Kingdom will be fulfilled. The themes and scripture readings of Advent prepare us for the second coming while commemorating the coming of Christ in the incarnation. The poet and prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of the peace that will come in the fulfilled Kingdom of Jesus Christ. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40: 11, NRSV).
For each Sunday of Advent, we light candles to recall hope, peace, faith, and love. These are four key components of our faith. On Christmas Eve we watch as the Advent Wreath shines its brightest upon lighting the Christ Candle – the candle of the incarnation – that an eternal light has come and shines brightly through the darkness – the light of Christ. The reality of our hope in Christ is that this light shines brightly in our future – it shines to remind us of the incarnation and it shines into the Advent of the second coming of Christ! Here is verse four of “Once in Royal David’s City” written by C. F. Alexander in 1848:
And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heaven above;
And he leads his children on to the place where he is gone.
You are invited to enter into the scriptural story during this Advent and Christmas season. By reading and meditating on these scriptures you will be able to enter into the life of the Hebrews as they long awaited their Messiah, sense the comfort of peace, and also develop an anticipation for the second coming of Jesus Christ. You will find yourself in the New Testament story of longing and find that we Christians have a lot in common with our Hebrew ancestors. We long for the Kingdom of God. This is why we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”