This coming Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season. I love this time of the year. Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the church since the fourth century has celebrated the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ by focusing attention on the Old Testament promise of His coming, the realization of the promise in His Incarnation, and the blessed hope of our Lord’s Second Coming. Advent is designed to nurture in Christ’s church joyful expectation and humble reverence.
Like last year, I am planning a special pulpit series for Advent. I plan to preach some of the best known songs of Christmas. But don’t think “Joy to the World” or “Silent Night.” What I have in mind are some of the most beautiful “songs” in Scripture: Mary’s song from Luke 1:46-55; Zachariah’s song from Luke 1:67-79; Simeon’s song from Luke 2:29-32; and Paul’s song in Philippians 2:5-11. Together these passages sound forth a heavenly chorus that takes us to the heart of the Christmas story.
We will also bring back our Advent wreath with the four candles around the outside of the evergreens and the one white candle in the center. The Advent wreath is a beautiful symbol of the everlasting life that came when the Light of the World entered our sin-darkened existence.
As I type I am listening to a wonderful rendition of one of my favorite Advent hymns, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I love this twelfth century poem for the way it reminds me of Christ’s first coming even as I long for His second.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Advent declares to the world the wonderful truth that the angel announced over two thousand years ago: ““Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Indeed, God is with us. And so we sing, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
Advent Resources for 2012
As an aid to worship this Christmas season, I’ve compiled a list of Advent resources for you and your family. Any others you would add to this list?
- Good News of Great Joy (Free e-book Advent readings from Desiring God Ministries)
- Knowing Him by Name (Focus on the Family’s free Advent calendar and activity guide)
- Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story (Sally Lloyd-Jones)
- Arrival: Preparing to Celebrate Christ’s Birth (free download of Billy Graham’s Advent devotional)
- Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (Nancy Guthrie)
- Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room (Nancy Guthrie)
- Countdown to the Coming of the King (an Advent calendar for families)