Advent 2019 has begun. It didn’t begin the day after Halloween - as is the impression some shops may have given when pumpkins were (almost overnight) swapped for chocolate oranges, and the chilled display cabinets suddenly became stocked up with festively packaged stilton cheeses and other luxury food items. It started on Sunday 1st December. The first Sunday of Advent is a bit like the starting gun for the big countdown; it’s a time of getting ready for the big day – and is simultaneously a time of waiting.
Advent is an old English word derived from the Latin verb, “to come”. It’s a time of waiting for God to show up. Of course, He already has shown up. That’s partly the point of festivals like Christmas and Easter (to celebrate His incredible entry into our world, His sacrifice for our sins, and His power over death. He came, He saw (our great need) and He conquered). One of the key purposes of the worldwide church’s existence is to raise awareness of His coming and to make known what difference His coming ought to make to each of us personally (though admittedly we ourselves are a work in progress and we aren’t always as clear or as committed to that purpose as we should be). It’s important that we get the word about God coming in the flesh out to as many people as we can - while we can - otherwise Advent and Christmas will continue to be celebrated out of context and folk will miss who this season is really about!!
Of far lesser importance there’s a book I’m ploughing my way through – on and off – at the moment. It’s called “Moby Dick”. It was written by Herman Melville in the pre-television, pre-soundbite era. It’s therefore significantly descriptive and arguably long winded (I can sympathise with Melville as, I too, have been accused of being at least one of those more than once). It’s widely assumed by the general population who haven’t read Melville’s classic novel that it is a tale about whaling and that the main character is a whale. Whilst it’s true that both of these feature – a lot – in the story, the main character is not Moby but Captain Ahab who is determined to get his revenge on the marine mammal for ripping his leg off below the knee at some point prior to the start of chapter one. The greater focus of the book is actually human obsession and it could (and probably should) have been titled “Captain Ahab” or “Ahab’s Obsession” rather than “Moby Dick”.
Likewise with Advent and Christmas - the main character is not the children, or family, or friends or that person we each refer to as “me”; it’s not even the shepherds or the angels. The main character is God. It’s about God sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to provide salvation for a fallen world. It’s about God following through on His age-old promises to get humanity out of the mess we got ourselves into.
And the point of Advent 2019 (and every other year), although it may feature tinsel and wrapping paper and stuffed turkeys, is actually about responding to God’s first appearance by way of preparation for His second appearance. The annual countdown of Advent should remind us that Christ will return. Whilst there are those who still dream of a white Christmas - and Ahab obsessed over a white whale - the Christian community is looking forward to a white horse....well, the white horse is perhaps a figurative description (given to us in the last book of the Bible - Revelation 19); but upon that equestrian creature, will be Jesus Christ, “Faithful and True... King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” He will return not as a baby in a manger or as a suffering servant, like He did the first time. He will come as a majestic and triumphant ruler, to gather His faithful followers to enjoy a Heavenly, trouble-free eternity with Him (with God!!) and to strike the blow of defeat upon His enemies – be that the forces of evil or those who opted to ignore or oppose Him throughout their lives. When Jesus returns He will finally and comprehensively right all wrongs and will call time on time itself.
At that moment, the time and date of which has not been disclosed by God to anyone, there will be no more time available for anyone to decide
The time for faith…and bright hope, is now. The time for welcoming Christ into our hearts, as ruler of our lives is now. Advent is a time of waiting for Christ; but let’s not wait too long to welcome Him – otherwise, like Captain Ahab, we will be all at sea.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
O come let us adore Him O come let us adore Him O come let us adore Him Christ the Lord!