“Advent” is the Latin word for “important arrival.” Lighting of Advent candles, reading the Scriptures that tell us of the birth of Christ, and singing Christmas songs are traditions most churches have to help Christians prepare for Christmas, the day set aside to celebrate the important arrival, the incarnation, of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of a busy holiday season, we use these traditions as a means to help us set our hearts on the greatest treasure of all, Jesus. But the season of Advent looks forward as much as it looks backwards because Jesus has promised to return again for his people.
Please consider how people responded to the first Advent of Christ so that you might be prepared for the second Advent of Christ.
When the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem looking for Jesus, the king born of the Jews, Herod, the reigning king, and all Jerusalem were troubled with this news. A new king? And so, Herod called all the chief priests and scribes of the people to inquire where this king, this Christ, was to be born.
The ready answer by these religious scholars was “Bethlehem” because of prophecies written long ago. And so, Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem to find the new king, the Christ, with the sly intent he would then kill this new king when he was found. (Matthew 2:1-12)
And so, the wise men go. But wait did you catch that? Only the wise men go. All Jerusalem had been troubled by this news the wise men brought. The chief priests and scribes were among those in Jerusalem, and they knew where the Messiah, the King, was to be born. They personally witnessed an incredible event with wise men from the east coming in response to a sign in the sky. And yet, they did not go check it out for themselves!
Absolutely astonishing. The very people whom you would have expected to rush to see if the Messiah was in the place they were already expecting him to arrive, actually stayed put and did nothing.
Take careful note of this: Though Jesus’ coming was expected by many, few were actually ready for his arrival.
There were many Jews in those days who would have affirmed that they believed the Messiah was coming. But when it actually happened, they were not ready.
This is a warning to us all. Every week during Advent (and throughout the whole year), we hear the proclamation that Jesus came once, and he will come again. But when it comes down to it, we don’t really have the expectation that he will come anytime soon. We go about our lives planning for many things the Christmas dinner, the summer vacation, the anticipated retirement. Little time is spent contemplating and preparing for the return of Jesus.
Do you believe Jesus is coming back with the same certainty that Christmas will come this year? When you stand before him on the day of his return, will you rejoice at his appearing, or will you be filled with shame at your lack of readiness?