The Reason for the Season – Advent

You may not have realised, but we are in a season called Advent. When we reach December (or is it October?) we start to think of Christmas. We are all too hasty, though. It is not yet time for that! Advent is a season of expectant waiting. And wait we should.

You see, before Jesus was born, Israel had been waiting for centuries for their promised deliverer. From the beginning of the story of God and his people (found in the Bible), God had promised a deliverer – a Messiah. See .

I will put emnity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.

Further into the story, the prophet Isaiah writes:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

Further on in Isaiah, the expectation is built again, this time in .

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him . . .

750 years before Jesus was born, Micah wrote, in 5:2, 4:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall spring forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

For thousands of years, God’s people had been waiting. It is in this season that we wait, also. We wait for the promises of God to come true on Christmas Day. We wait for God to become man, to dwell among us. We wait expectantly for God to deliver us from captivity. Let it be clear, though, that we do not wait literally, but figuratively. The promised Messiah was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. We don’t need to wait for him any longer. In the spirit of the season, though, we wait for Christmas Day, when we celebrate that event.

The Lord promised from the beginning of the world that he would deliver his people from captivity. From Roman oppression? Perhaps. That’s what the Jews hoped for. From poverty? Maybe, but not yet. Delivery from death? From sin? Indeed. And so it was for that reason that the Messiah was born – to ransom his people from captivity. This Advent, we wait also – not for the Messiah, but to celebrate his birth.

Photo Credit: © electriceye – Fotolia.com

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

6 thoughts on “The Reason for the Season – Advent”

  1. Since when did Baptist churches celebrate the liturgical calendar which includes Advent???
    The Apostle Paul said:
    But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. NKJV

    Paul also said this which allows for observance or non-observance:
    One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.

    ….but I’m concerned there’ll soon be nowhere for us non-observers of the special days of the liturgical calendar to go ;-)

  2. Kent & Barbara Hughes, good Baptists from Wheaton College, Illinois, talk about advent in their book Common Parenting. They used it with their kids at home. Our church doesn’t use this on Sundays, but some of us do privately. Christmas, of course, is not in the Bible either, but Baptist churches celebrate it (the Puritans didn’t). It seems to me that Baptists sometimes claim to be more Biblical, but are merely inconsistent. Galatians warns us against following any Jewish/ OT festivals. But at least they are in the Bible – unlike Christmas and Easter! However freedom from the Law in Galatians does not mean we must not keep the Law or do such things. Freedom means we can take it or leave it. If you like Advent – use it. If you don’t – leave it. Freedom in Christ means you have the choice. If the church insisted we all keep advent, that would be a problem. But it doesn’t! Anyway, I’m glad for your comment Lyn – I’m sure many others had the same thoughts. And hope you don’t mind me jumping in Simon!

  3. Martin – thanks for jumping in. A fine answer.

    Lyn, thanks for your comment. I recognise the issue, but I think that you’re wasting your energy! I’d echo Martin’s sentiments – if you don’t like Advent, I’m not going to force you to celebrate it because there is no biblical law that says you should. Likewise, there is no biblical law that says you shouldn’t. I think it would be a shame if we abandoned singing O Come O Come Emmanuel and other similar hymns in the lead up to Christmas. And trust me, I’m not trying to drag baptist churches into High Anglicanism/Romanism! I am encouraging people to reflect the truths of the Bible, and the liturgical calendar can be helpful to draw attention to those truths. As Martin pointed out, Christmas and Easter are good examples!

  4. Simon, I guess my only concern is that you differentiate yourselves from other Baptist churches of a liberal persuasion who appear to be plugging all things liturgical with gusto!! Nothing wrong with singing hymns but I believe there is something wrong with embracing the doctrinal bases for much of what liturgical practice hinges upon. This is why I do not wish to involve myself in such practices and I am sure many other sincere born-again Christians hold the same sentiments. I can simply read my Bible to remind myself of truths of the Bible and so can the church as a whole! Perhaps if you make church attendees aware of the dangers, and the difference between your view of liturgical practices and others, then maybe it can be a tool for awareness. Sadly, I do see that an adherence to the liturgical calendar could be seen as a way of achieving ecumenical goals for those with that agenda. An example of this influence was seen in a Baptist church I was part of in Queensland where the pastor wrote a glowing eulogy on our church newsletter for Pope John Paul II, declaring him to have been a fine example of a Christian. Hmmmmm, lots to think upon there I would say! Another Baptist church I had previously been part of introduced candles and incense as part of evening worship. Another Baptist church in Sydney goes much further by engaging in Stations of the Cross and other Catholic rituals. Honestly, I think all of it is misleading, including adherence to Advent because it could so easily become a stepping stone into much more. And as to Christmas and Easter, we should celebrate their themes every day in my opinion. Quite frankly I only use those occasions to remind everyone I know that Jesus Christ is Lord!!! Yes, and I sit down to Christmas dinner with family and friends, send cards and give gifts when I feel to. I’m not a legalist, just a lover of the Truth.

  5. Thanks Lyn. I’m glad you can simply read the Bible, and be reminded of it’s truth in that way. Everyone should follow your lead.

    I also know exactly what you’re talking about regarding liturgical leanings in a number of liberal Baptist churches. Liturgy is not a sign of liberal theology, though. There are a number of very sound Christian denominations and churches which use liturgy in a very helpful way. The problem, in my opinion, is not the liturgy – it’s the theology that drives the liturgy. If the theology is good, then the liturgy can be helpful. If the theology is bad, as you’ve experienced, then the liturgy is likely to be unhelpful. But so, then, is the preaching and songs etc . . . There’s also plenty of bad theology in non-liturgical churches.

    Having said that, I’m not advocating for liturgy – I think it is by and large a matter of indifference. I’m also not adhering to the liturgical calendar in the way which you are describing. I could have replaced the word “Advent” for the phrase “the period leading up to Christmas”, and then you wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. In short, I hear your concerns and am sympathetic to your desire to see sound theology and practice in churches. I don’t think that using liturgy (or not) has anything to do with those concerns – it’s what is in the liturgy, and what’s behind it that matters.

    Merry Christmas, Lyn! Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate your thoughts.

Comments are closed.