This coming weekend begins the season of Advent. Advent is a preparatory season of four weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a chance for us to wait in anticipation for the coming of Christ, both as a baby at Christmas and as the victorious king at His second coming. The term ‘advent’ derives from the Latin word adventus, which means arrival.
As a child, my family took the season of Advent seriously. Each evening, we would gather around an advent wreath to sing songs and read a brief devotional about preparation. Although I was more excited about lighting or snuffing the candles than the substance of the time, the way we stepped outside of our normal hurried lives to focus on Jesus’ coming made an impact on me.
This past weekend, our family worked hard on getting out the Christmas decorations and putting up our tree. It’s always interesting to unpack the boxes of decorations and supplies that you only see once a year. “I forgot about this one!”, one of our kids said as they put a favorite ornament on the tree. Another of our boys laughed at a particularly interesting crèche set we have from another country. The anticipation is growing.
One of the most powerful moments of anticipation in all of the New Testament is Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel.Gabriel arrests Mary’s attention and begins to tell her that a God-given child-life is taking shape within her. I cannot imagine the sense of anticipation that sparked in Mary.
Mary is a helpful example for all of us as we enter into this season of Advent.
First, she listened to the message that God had for her about the Messianic child she was to carry. Many of us need to stop and listen to God this season. We need to hear again His message of grace in Christ’s first coming and fulfillment in Christ’s second coming. But we also need to stop and hear His message to us personally. What is God speaking to you and me right now?
Secondly, Mary needed to prepare for the arrival of her baby, Jesus. So, too, we need to prepare for the Messiah. Yes, Jesus has already come as a baby. That may seem like old news, but this season we can stand again in the midst of the shepherds and be amazed at the divine gift that has come. We can open our lives to Him in deeper ways. We can also prepare for Jesus’ second coming in full victory and glory. Will He find us ready and faithful at His return, or will He find us complacent and uninterested? How is He asking us to prepare ourselves for Him?
Thirdly, Mary needed to wait for the arrival of Jesus. Pregnancy involves a lot of waiting. A good friend of ours agonized through an extra week and a half of pregnancy beyond her due date. The days crept by, but all she could do was wait. We also are waiting for the arrival of Jesus. We await His second coming in power and glory. But are we waiting for Him, or are we enmeshed in other pursuits with no interest in His coming?
During this Advent season may we take the journey to Jesus seriously. May we all be listening, preparing, and waiting for Jesus. He has come . . . and He will come again.