As With Gladness
as with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright;
so most gracious God, may we evermore be led to thee.
The Latin adventus has rich connotations of arrival and coming, but it can also refer to an invasion, incursion or an appearance. What power and beauty this can be as we gather each week and sing, hear the word preached, enjoy communion with God and man, and rest in our Savior again and again. Christ has absolutely appeared and Advent absolutely exalts him. He is the full flower of all those ancient promises of God. And so, our greens are hung in the sanctuary with care and now the first candle stands among us bright and beautiful, and we are full of hope.
there to bend the knee before him who heav'n and earth adore;
so may we with willing feet ever seek thy mercy seat.
This first week of Advent celebrates the hope we have in God's Christ, which we read in all the many prophecies concerning him. Every prophetic word of the Old and New Testament offers a hope that is an anchor for the soul. Like honey his word always sweetens, heals, and renews--it never returns void. The prophecies of Christ especially remind us that God is true and trustworthy, and every single one of the roughly four hundred prophecies concerning God's redemption are "Yes! and Amen!" in Jesus!
So, if you are asked why you celebrate Advent or why you're wearing your purple with a little pomp, you can tell all who have ears to hear that it is because of Jesus. The anticipation of his birth is inescapable. Perhaps this year will be the first time someone you love will hear the gospel and come to saving faith in Christ. Let us never forget to love and pray for our unbelieving friends and family. For others the lights, trees, and presents will remain the main thing and Jesus's "birthday" will get a mere nod. But for the lovers of God, found in every corner of the world, for those that are his true sheep and his beloved possession, there will be sweet and special worship, feasting and fellowship, singing and rejoicing in the greatest story ever told. Our whole year really begins with his coming, it is the main thing. This is no "pagan holiday" or empty tradition, this is the yearly proclamation of the advent of God's kingdom, this kingdom that "will have no end."
so may we with holy joy, pure, and free from sin's alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring, Christ to thee, our heav'nly King.
Mild though he was, let us not forget that all the fullness of God was poured out in his son. All of heaven was born in that baby and the peace that man so desperately needed had finally come. The moment Isaiah foretold had finally appeared:
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined" (Isaiah 9:2).
Christ truly is the Light of the World and the Prince of Peace.
and when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide, where no clouds thy glory hide.
With the prophecy candle now lit, we honor our verifiable faith and praise God for the hope that has survived generations of adversity, heresy, and faithlessness of broken people. We profess a gospel that is truly good news to those who believe and it is grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This Christ is our Redeemer, who was promised from the beginning of time. We find early whispers of him in Eden:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring, He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Genesis 3:15
The prophet Isaiah foretold Christ:"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:6-7
"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
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.
And he shall be their peace." Micah 5:2-5
In the heav'nly country bright need they no created light;
thou its light, its joy, its crown, thou its sun which goes not down;
there forever may we sing alleluias to our King.
Perhaps a wonderful family habit during this season would be to study the many prophecies of Christ found in the Scriptures. These words of life are our abiding hope, dear friends. There is hardship, sickness and despair among us. But the King of Glory never steps down off his throne, and in his mercy and love he has and he will remove all anguish and gloom (Isaiah 9). Sometimes we experience this relief on this side of heaven, but when we do not and if we suffer, we must hold on to the promises of God's faithfulness to restore everything in his time and ask him boldly for the grace to walk steadily and believe him despite our circumstances. God is near the broken-bodied and broken-hearted. The Father's gift of nearness and love is Christ our joy! He is our very present comfort and rest.