December second marked the beginning of this year’s advent season.
Different denominations have different ways to celebrate just as different families have different ways to celebrate.
As a child in the Methodist church, I looked forward to the lighting of the advent candle inside the advent wreath. One candle was lit each week leading up to Christmas while we remembered the hope, love, joy, and peace that Jesus brings us. On Christmas Eve, the last and largest candle was lit to symbolize Jesus as the Light of the World. (The Advent wreath began in the time of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther.)
Though I enjoyed the stories and sense of mystery that accompanied the tradition, I have to admit that I enjoyed a different advent tradition much more—opening the tiny door on my advent calendar and finding my special candy.
The dictionary definition of advent is the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. In Christian theology advent is the coming or the second coming of Christ. Saints from before and after Jesus’s birth anticipated his Advent.
Consider what my pastor, Nathan Franckhauser says, “Old Testament believers looked to a Messiah, the Seed of Abraham, who was coming. We look to a Messiah who died on a cross, was risen three days later, and will return.”
This advent season, I want to reflect on four examples of our Messiah. Four displays from before he walked the dusty roads of Judea. Four glimpses that provided Old Testament believers with the ability to look toward, search for, and anticipate his first Advent.
The Savior in Creation
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:1-3
John lays out the Divinity of Jesus for us, telling us that Jesus was in the beginning with God and that Jesus was God. That it was through Him that all things were created.
The writer of Hebrews concurs with John by writing, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2
Paul writes in Colossians, “For by Him [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16
Jesus as Creator
Creation was made through Christ, the Trinity working in unison. But was this evident in the Old Testament or was it merely Christian theology built upon a Jewish foundation? In John 5:39 Jesus is quoted as saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”
In Hebrew, the first verse of the Torah reads, “beresheet bara elohim” this is what it looks like in Hebrew: (read right to left)
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים
It is interesting that, from all the names for God that the Holy Spirit could have inspired Moses to use, He chose Elohim, which is a plural form of God. In the third word of the scriptures, God gives humankind the first glimpse into his Trinitarian nature.
From the witness of the New Testament and the witness of the Old Testament, we see Jesus active in creation.
In the Divine Conquest, A.W. Tozer wrote, “Redemption is not a strange work which God turned aside for a moment to do. Rather it is His same work performed in a new field—the field of human catastrophe.
“The regeneration of the believing soul is but a recapitulation of all His work done from the moment of creation. It is hard to miss the parallel between generation as described in the Old Testament and regeneration as described in the New. How, for instance, could the condition of a lost soul better be described than by the words, “without form and void, with darkness upon the face of the deep?
“And how could the strong yearnings of God’s heart over that lost soul be more perfectly expressed than by saying that “the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters?” And from what source could light come to that sin-shrouded soul had God not said, “Let there be light?
“At his word the light breaks and the lost man arises to drink of eternal life and follow the Light of the World. As order and fruitfulness came next to that ancient creation, so moral order and spiritual fruit follow next in human experience.”
Christ is the redemption of creation and the story of redemption is evidenced through creation. In Romans 1:20, Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
Not only do we see God’s invisible attributes through the daily evidence of creation, but we were gifted in our collective consciousness with the memory of creation. The need for sacrificial atonement is a global knowledge, practiced (and distorted) worldwide. Through the order and knowledge of creation itself, God narrated His plan of redemption. Consider:
God moves over what is dead to begin the work of creation.
Jesus calls what is dead, empty, and void into life-giving light.
God separates us from the darkness that previously enshrouded us.
…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26:18
God calls us to be fruitful as we grow into our original purpose as ruling and reigning image-bearers of God.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28
If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13
Redemption in Man’s Rebellion
God was not surprised by man’s rebellion. His plan of redemption was written in Creation before the Fall.
Revelation 13:8 tells us that Jesus was the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. God’s promise to Satan that Eve’s seed would crush him must still have been ringing in Eve’s ears as she watched the first sacrifice take place. An innocent animal died to cover her and Adam’s shame.
As God placed the skins over their shoulders, Adam and Eve began to look forward to a coming Redeemer who would put right what their sin had wrecked—right relationship with God. From that moment on, faithful believers lived in a state of hopeful anticipation as they awaited the Advent of the Christ.
Join the Conversation
What Advent traditions do you find spiritually fulfilling? Which are your favorite? Why?