“The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event”
I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be waiting for the coming of the Messiah. There must have been so many questions and awesome expectations. The ideal for this chosen one was associated with all kinds of human attributes of power. What would this Messiah be like and how would he fight the battle his people so desperately longed for after years of abuse and turmoil? When and how would this Messiah come and bring vengeance upon those who had abused the chosen people of God?
The Messiah didn’t come like anyone expected. He came in the most helpless form possible; a baby. He was born not of wealth or power. He came as an infant into a regular home born to regular people and he started out his life with a bounty on his head. His coming brought the death of hundreds of baby boys because even in his infancy he threatened kings. This was not at all the expectation and yet it was the reality for those chosen to protect the one who would bring ultimate deliverance to, not just his people, but all people. This too was not at all expected and in many ways must have felt like betrayal to those who had waited and suffered for so long.
Thousands of years later we take time to celebrate this season of his advent and most of us not the original chosen people but the ones grafted in by his great grace. But do we really stop and take in what it means? Does it ever occur to us that advent demands much of us? It’s not merely a season for merriment, lights, gifts, and goosebumps over awesome renditions of carols that make our eyes well with emotions that last for a very short time. It is a season that requires the reminder that a great deal is demanded from those of us who claim the Messiah as Lord. It is a reminder that his ways do not echo the ways of the world. His power was humble and bold and his sights were set on the weak, broken, sick and lost. He did not seek fame or recognition. He sought the lost and the lowly. He was a friend of sinners because he longed to bring them into his flock.
He despised the religious leaders who abused their power and placed themselves on a platform with little accountability and so much emphasis on wealth and self-promotion. It sounds very familiar to what we see in the modern church today. I doubt very much that Jesus would praise what we praise in our modern day religious leaders and religious experiences.
Advent is so much more than a season. It is a call to remember and in the remembrance to act in a manner worthy of the one who called us; the one who came to us and for us. John Piper said,
“It is the story of how the vertical advent of God in the mission of Jesus bends out and becomes the horizontal advent of Jesus in the mission of the church. In us. Jesus came into the world at the first Advent and every Advent since is a reminder of his continual advent into more and more lives. And that advent is, in fact, our advent – our coming, our moving into the lives of those around us and into the peoples of the world.”
What are we spending ourselves on this advent season that echoes throughout the entire year? Do the lives of those around us matter, or do we selectively chose who matters most to us because of human standards and expectations and spend ourselves on behalf of that approval or gain? Do we reach for the sick and the lost and the burdened like Jesus did, or do we let the sparkly things of this world catch our eyes so that we become like the religious leaders that Jesus showed to be the frauds that they were? Do we look backwards on Advent with the promise of the second advent? Do we remember that he will come back and get us and do we live our lives according to that expectation? What will he find in his final advent? Will he find us living out the horizontal advent he instructed us to. Or will he find us dancing with evil in order to gain what the world has to offer while we mix his name in (as if that were all he has asked of us)?
His Advent cost him everything and that same Advent requires that we give everything. It’s beautiful and it’s painful. It’s fulfilling and it’s deadly. It’s bold and it’s dangerous. Everyone who has ever come under the banner of the name of the Messiah has had to lose it all in order to gain everything. Those of us who are refusing to empty our pockets while perusing the name of Jesus haven’t really understood what Advent means.
He was born from heaven into the world he created to be delivered over to the ones he breathed life into as they would snuff out his final breath in order that he might save some. Christmas comes with a price tag on it. The silent night was born into the shadow of the cross. The sacrifice given was also one that demands return. It demands everything! May we empty our pockets and our pride this advent season and follow the lead of a Messiah who never looked like what the world demanded. He’s never acted in accordance with the desires of humanity and he never will. Neither can we. Advent, or his arrival to this dark place, cost him everything and it demands nothing less from us.