Advent is on the horizon, if you’ve never ‘celebrated’ I offer you here a few thoughts. Spending an extended season focusing on how and why a God who is Holy and Majestic would leave His throne and put on flesh will enlarge your heart for worship, and help you in the end to have the mind of Christ, or to “have this attitude which was in Christ Jesus…” (see Philippians 2)
Colossians 2:16-17 applies here, as you ponder whether or how to incorporate Advent. “Let no one [and likewise, you ought not to…] pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Not a command
Advent is not mandated by the LORD, yet it can be a season to focus on the incarnation to His glory. If you are celebrating Advent apart from the Incarnation, what are you celebrating?
When I was a child, a local church put up a giant wreath with four candles, and each week one more candle would be lit. Seeing the candles was exciting. But all my excitement was for gifts. As a child, I firmly believed it was more blessed to receive than to give. I eagerly anticipated getting new toys, new clothes, new anything… One year, I actually pouted, and broke my parents’ hearts, wondering “is that it?” One year, I still remember, being angry that Santa didn’t bring me a particular charm necklace that everyone else in my grade had. If everything my parents told me about Santa was true, then he could have made me that necklace but instead he gave me things I did not want. How thoughtless of Santa.
Side note: This is one of the many reasons we didn’t lie to our children about Santa being real. It produced no goodness in my heart, it increased the sin that already resided there. My greed increased, my ungratefulness spilled out and it backfired as I was then disciplined for my bad attitude.
Advent, a season of wonder
As a child, advent was about expecting materialistic gifts. It was about me. As I grew in faith, and put away childish things, Advent became a season of wonder and worship as I pondered the Incarnation. Philippians 2 warmed my heart like never before, as I thought about the King of Glory becoming a poor baby, growing up as a poor child, and living a perfect life so as to gift His righteousness to His people. He came to bless us with so much more than materialism. He came that we might know Him. And if we know Him, we cannot help but adore and worship Him.
I am forever indebted to Dietrich Bonhoeffer for teaching me the beauty of Advent, and awakening my heart to spending a season in wonder and glorious anticipation. I first read his advent sermons during my junior year of college, more than 20 years ago. I have been re-reading them ever since.
His sermons highlighted the glory of the Incarnation, the wonder of His love–sacrificial love, the beauty of His patience and the fulness of times in which He came, the waiting we now find ourselves in and the way we live while waiting, expectations, and letting our hearts truly adore Him.
Do you need an advent book?
I’ve read a few advent books since that have been enjoyable. In fact, this year I bought Sinclair Ferguson’s latest advent book, and it is truly delightful. Back in 2006, the worship director at our church created an Advent guide with Scriptures and hymns; my husband and I still look back at that for encouragement. But my favorite way to enjoy Advent is simply reading the passages that foretell His coming, musing on them throughout the day, going slowly through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth, and the passages from the Epistles that explain “why” Jesus had to come the way He did, and what His incarnation accomplished.
If you are craving a simple, soul-satisfying Advent, jot these verses down. Spend this season writing them out, meditating on them, committing a favorite one to memory, and asking the Spirit for the promised joy and peace that come from setting your mind on such things.
A few of my favorites, but by no means an exhaustive list: Deuteronomy 18:15-19 Isaiah 7:10-14; 9:6-7 (see John 1:1-4); 11:1-11; 12:1-6; 19:20-25; 22:22; 40:9-11; 42:1-4; 49:1-7; 60:1-3 & 19-22; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Micah 5:1-5 (John 1:45-47, 7:42); Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13; Malachi 3:1-3; 4:5 (see Matthew 11:11-15); Philippians 2:1-11; Colossians 1:15-23; Titus 2:11-3:7; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:10-18; 2 John 7-9.