A Brief History Advent
Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. The word Advent is taken from the Latin word Adventus which means coming. As Christians we hold to the truth that Jesus has already come as a baby, who was born of a virgin, taught about the coming and present Kingdom of God, gave his life on the cross of Calvary, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father where he rules and reigns. But the season of Advent is not only about observing the coming of Christ incarnate but observing the three comings of Christ. The first is the observance of the coming of Christ as a human (that past), the coming of Christ in the last days (the future), and the coming of Christ through the Holy Spirit (the present).
The challenge of Advent is that it is rooted in the disciplines of waiting, anticipating, and expecting. We live in an extremely fast paced world and some wonder, is anything worth waiting for? The question remains, in this day and time why should we wait for anything? We live in an instant gratification world. Anything you may need; you can get almost immediately. Thanks to services like Amazon, Netflix, Uber Eats, and Carvana we no longer have the need to go a store to buy books, movies, music, food, or cars. We have the technology where we can download and order anything from the comfort of our own homes and have it delivered in a timely manner.
Regardless, it’s safe to assume most of us don’t like to wait; well, I don’t like to wait. I lose my patience while waiting in line at the store, or while driving. I complain whenever I must wait.
Then I am reminded of Advent. The discipline of waiting is essential to Christian discipleship. The anticipation of Advent is not intended to be a countdown to Christmas. It is, as author Timothy Paul Jones writes, “The proclamation of the sufficiency of Christ through the discipline of waiting.” Yes, waiting is definitely a discipline for me. I have fallen into the trap of busyness and instant gratification. I don’t like the words “anticipation,” “patience,” and “wait.” But this is what Advent is all about. It’s about waiting, preparing, and anticipating.
Meaning of the Advent Wreath
Advent begins on the first Sunday closest to November 30th (Which is Sunday, December 3, 2023) and continues through Christmas Eve. Both the Catholic and Western Churches traditionally display an Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent.
The wreath symbolizes the eternity of God. It is a circle that has no beginning and no end. The use of evergreens represents eternal life through Jesus Christ. Traditionally there are five candles, three purple, one pink, and one white. The purple candles represent repentance and fasting; and it is also the color of royalty. The pink candle signifies joy and rejoicing and exemplifies the shift of the season from repentance to joy. The white candle represents the purity of Christ and his cleansing power over sin.
What Each Advent Candle Represents
Week One – The Prophecy Candle. Precept One – Hope – Jesus is coming
Week Two – The Bethlehem Candle. Precept Two – Preparation – Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem.
Week Three – The Shepherd Candle. Precept Three – Joy – The joy the world experiences at the coming birth of Jesus.
Week Four – The Angel Candle. Precept Four – Peace – The Angels message, “Peace on earth, good will toward man.
Christmas Eve – The Christ Candle. Christ has come, He is present with us.
So, in preparation for Advent, I think it is best to start from the beginning to observe and to contemplate what it is that we anticipate this Advent season. We will look at the first chapter of the Gospel of John and specifically the first 18 verses. This passage has been titled “The prologue to the Gospel” by many. In this prologue the Apostle John established what author Gary M. Burge writes, “An overture to the story of the rest of the Gospel.” In these 18 verses he establishes these truths about Jesus.
1. Jesus is the Word
2. Jesus is eternal.
3. Jesus is one with the Father.
4. Jesus is Creator.
5. Jesus is the true light.
6. Jesus came to his people and was rejected.
7. Jesus became a man and dwelt among humanity.
With this established, let’s jump into John 1:1 – 18.
Vs 1 - 2: The Gospel of John begins the same way as Genesis 1… “In the Beginning…”. In Genesis the beginning introduces the story of the old creation and now John introduces the story of the new creation. In both acts of Creation, the creating agent is the Word or God. Since the beginning the Word was present. There has not been a time when the Word has not existed. The Word, as we will soon see, is Jesus and he has always been. He was not created, he has no beginning, nor does he have an end. Thus, everything must start and finish with Jesus.
The Word was with God… this does not imply that he was in close proximity, but it states that there is an intimate and personal relationship between the Father and the Son. Jesus and the Father have been together as one since the beginning.
Not only was the Word, Jesus, with God but the Word was the very essence of God. I like the way The New English Translation reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.
Vs 3: In this verse the Word is now referred as “He” and the He is Jesus, the creator of all things. Whatever has existed or will exist because it was created by the Word. The Word is the agent of Creation, we see this in Genesis where God speaks and then it existed. Colossians 1:15, 16 says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, or through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.” And Hebrews 1:2 says, “And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.”
Vs 4, 5: In Him is life… Jesus doesn’t just possess life; he is the source of life… He is the source of physical and spiritual life. As noted, he is the Creator of all (physical life) but also through his death and resurrection became the source of Spiritual life as well.
John also denotes that Jesus is the light that dispels darkness. In the Bible darkness is synonymous with death and evil and the light dispels the darkness. The darkness will try to overcome Jesus (as we will see in the Gospel) but to no avail. Christ is victorious! F.F. Bruce writes in his commentary, “Light and darkness are opposites, but they are not opposites of equal power. Light is stronger than darkness; and darkness cannot prevail against it.”
Vs 6 – 8: John is referring to John the Baptist. Apostle John (who incidentally is not John the Baptist) says that John is not the light but the witness to the light. His job and purpose in life was to prepare the way and testify of the coming Messiah who is Jesus.
Vs 9 – 13: Jesus is the true light. Others may have made this claim, but Jesus is the true light He gives light to all who believe in Him. He came to the world to bring the light and the world (namely his own people) did not receive Him, instead they crucified him and left Him for dead. However, to those who did receive Him He gave them the power or right to be called children of God. He has given us Spiritual re-birth! We are not born again of humans but are born again through the Spirit of God and we are declared His children. To those who believe we are now members of God’s family.
Vs 14- 18: - The Word became flesh: The incarnation. The eternal God, Creator of all, and the light of the world took on the form of a man and dwelt among humanity. John was an eyewitness as he walked, talked, and touched the living God in human flesh. John himself bore witness to Jesus’ glory. The word glory means “the most exalted state or kingly majesty”. This could refer to Christ’s transfiguration and his death and resurrection in which John witnessed.
All John saw and heard from Jesus (his teachings) was for the distinct purpose of fellowship. He had fellowship with the Father, with the Apostles and the Apostles with the Father. The purpose of God’s incarnation through Jesus Christ was to reveal Himself to humanity. The revelation of himself to humanity was intended so we could have true fellowship with Him. We can have a relationship with God ONLY because He made himself available to us through Jesus Christ.
I would like to invite you, this Advent season, to join me in the discipline of waiting. Join with me as we prepare and long for the coming of King Jesus. Let us celebrate as we proclaim His first Advent as God Himself came to this world as a human, dwelt among us, and showed us the way to His Kingdom. May we revel in the joy and reality of Jesus who came and dwells in us through the Holy Spirit, and let us prepare as we anticipate and look forward to His Second Advent when He will return in full glory to set the world right and establish His Kingdom here on earth for all eternity.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books