River City Spokane

Advent: Origins and Purpose

Happy Christmas! This is Kerr, the church planter and one of the elders of River City. Welcome to gospel home brew, a resource of River City Spokane. May the scriptures of our God brew in you so that you can stir it in others.

Man, it feels like it has been a long time since I got to share God’s word with you, but I hope that you have been blessed by this podcast and the extraordinary teachers God has blessed our church with. There is no greater joy then striving side by side with men who desire to see God’s word not only taught to you, but come alive in you. For the past two months we have been brewing on the book of Philippians: the letter of indestructible joy. We ended with the last two weeks with the Christ hymn (Philippians 2:5-11) and being lights of the world (Philippians 2:12-18) taught by Colten and Thomas. And what better Scriptures to lead us into this time.

The Christ hymn is about what God did for humanity—He came.
Being lights of the world is what God does through humanity—He makes Himself known to a grumbling, confused, and dark world.

What do these Scriptures teach us about God?
What do these Scriptures teach us about us?

God came and we desperately needed Him to, even though most of the time we believe otherwise. We are entering into a season where celebration will be encouraged, songs will be sung about this time, and houses will be marked with lights to shine bright. But why do so many people loss sight of the reason this is done? Many will be entrapped in to consumerism instead of confession and adoration. Many will fall into debt instead of like the wise many falling into worship and love. Many will have sings with the word Joy to the World, but have no idea where this hope lies. And here is the good news! Christians we know why, and we get to share with those we love how we know this. Christian, Christmas is much more than parties, presents, and lights. For many Christmas is hidden, but Christians have the call and privilege of living in such away that makes known the hidden message of Christmas.

And at River City this is why we celebrate Advent and not just Christmas!

If you have not grown up in the church or even if you have, you may be asking what is advent? And I am excited to answer this question!

Before we brew in the God of the Word, let us dwell on the origins and purpose of Advent.

The Origins

So what are the origins of Advent? First, Advent derives from the Latin word for “The Coming or Arrival. Second, Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar year. And third, it is the season for waiting. It originally started as a period of fasting in preparation for Christmas. It actually began in the late 400s, but did not become an official celebration till the mid second century. However, Advent is two-dimensional. For most of us we see the scene with baby Jesus in the manger. That is only the first dimension. The second dimension is that it was a time to reflect and prepare for Christ’s second coming at the end of history.

So Advent is about delighting in the God who came, comes, and is coming.

Advent was a time where Christians for centuries celebrated this time with repentance and fasting to prepare their minds and hearts to delight and enjoy in their God that has done extraordinary and inexhaustible things for them. What do you do when you are planning your Christmas parties? You get your house ready! You decorate, you take things out to make room for your guest, you rearrange the furniture to make it more intimate, and you get excited (or at least you should). The same is for Advent. This is a time to clear away the all the distracting things of the year, and create a space in our hearts and lives for Christ to come. Advent is us decorating to make known to the world who we celebrate, fasting from things to make room in our hearts and minds, rearrange our lives to experience Jesus in a deeper way, so that our hearts are excited and delight in our God and not this world.

So what do you need to give up to experience Jesus more?

For some this can be simple and for some this can be hard.

This is what repentance is all about: turning away from things that take us away from Jesus so that we can come closer and closer to Jesus. This is the reason through the centuries and even today churches and homes mark their house with the color purple and blue: the color for repentance and hope. These colors stress to the child of God of the promise that Christ made to us in his first coming among us that he would come again.

Let me tell you the greatest news in the world!

God has come “though he was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” This Scripture is the manger scene. God came for you and for those you love and know. He came to be sin for you so that he could be salvation for you. He emptied Himself to fill you up with Himself. He became a man to die in your place. He loved you so much that he de-robed Himself so that he could wrap you in that robe. He chose swaddling clothes so that he could dress you in his Kingly robe.

And he did this “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among who you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ.”

The Purpose

You see we are not simply waiting for the coming of Christmas, but we are ultimately waiting for Jesus to come again to celebrate with Him for the rescue and treasure He is to us.

Sadly, though the advent season focused on waiting and inward preparation has disappeared culturally, and even in the church, we often ignore its call to reflection. In our culture Advent has become the “holiday season”, and we measure it with the number of days of shopping and doing things. Instead of being a time of waiting and reflecting, it has become a time of cramming, decorating, shopping, wrapping, and mailing. We do not have to be like this. We can break out of this mold and not be sucked in. Instead of this time being a time when you say, “Okay its over,” it can be a time when you say, “Wow, there is no god like our God.”

Advent is a counterculture call. Advent is not about parties or purchases, it is about Christ who is Emmanuel, God-with-us. It is a call to radical change: re-shifting our priorities, and as one author stated:

The reimagining of what is possible in the world now that the incarnation (God taking on flesh) has irrevocably changed the reality in which we live. The coming of Christ into our midst requires that we rethink our desires and that we learn to hold them lightly, allowing the desire of God to supplant-or increase-our own desires.

This can be a time when we rethink what is most important to us, to realign our lives with God’s desires for us, to seek forgiveness and to start anew.

That is why the first word to celebrate this season is the word: Wait.

The first two Scriptures we will brew in for this season is Psalm 130:5-6 (revealing the state our hearts need to be in) and Matthew 24:36-44 (revealing to us what we are longing for).

Lets read these together:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Brew on these as we journey toward Jesus. And we start with waiting, before seeing. As a family or individually read these together and just dwell and reflect on them.

This is Kerr, may this season be the beginning of a new journey with Jesus. Let us brew in Advent so that it can stir in us and we can together have our hearts crying out, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

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