Observed in many church traditions in the month of December, Advent is a season to prepare our hearts in anticipation and celebration of the birth of Christ. While no one is really sure when the first Advent took place, some believe it dates back to the 5th century when monks had to fast during December. Other scholars believe that advent began during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, when Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer and fasting in preparation for their baptism.
It was not until the 6th century that Advent was tied to the coming of Christ, which is what the Latin word means from which we get ‘Advent’. The ‘coming’ Christians had in mind though was not Christ’s first coming in a manger but his second coming as King and judge of the world. It was only during the Middle Ages, Advent was explicitly linked to the birth of Christ.
The Christmas story is indeed a stunning story of Jesus first coming as the creator of the universe, humbling himself to be born as a baby in a shared space with animals before being placed in a manger. He revealed God’s character and lived perfectly before his selfless death on the cross so that all who believe him would be saved from God’s righteous judgment.
But critically, Advent is also a time when we remember Jesus’ promise to return again in the future for his people and to restore all things back into proper relationship with him as King and Creator. Jesus is more than a babe in a manger! That’s not his real identity. His true identity is the one revealed to the apostle John in Revelation 1:13-16 (meditate on it). Jesus looked so majestic and glorious, that John fell at his feet as though dead in worship. It’s impossible not to when you’ve just heard his voice sounding like rushing waters and having just seen his face shining in all its brilliance like the sun!
Meek and mild our Jesus is, but weak and tame, he is not! The apostle John asserts, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). The apostle Paul concurs, encouraging Christians in Ephesus to be strong in the Lord and his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10) in light of Jesus’ sovereignty and absolute authority.
In closing, Jesus’ very own words, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).