Advent is a pretty common element of the Christmas season but there are so nuances of Advent that we don’t often think about. The word “advent” does not appear in our Bible but it is derived from the Latin word adentus, meaning “coming” which in Greek is the word Parousia.
Historically Advent was thought of differently. John Holcomb (Christianity.com) explained the early church’s mindset of Advent anticipated baptizing new believers at the Feast of Epiphany. It was preceded by 40 days of fasting, prayer and penance and had little to do with Christ’s birth. It would be hard for us to think of Christ’s first coming with fasting with our cultural practices of massive consumption. By the sixth century the church was connecting advent to Christ’s second coming.
The beauty of Advent is not when Jesus was coming but the fact that Jesus even came. It never ceases to amaze me that God became flesh and dwelt among us. Mankind’s sin did not warrant such mercy and yet God demonstrated His lavish love by sending His Son:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross – Philippians 2:5-8
What a staggering “coming to grips with reality” moment to be one of the disciples when they fully realized the person inside this common flesh and blood body, was the God of the universe (Matt. 16:16). Can you imagine starring into the eyes of Jesus and contemplating that this individual was the Son of God… mind-blowing in every sense of the word?
By the way Jesus was treated it is even more staggering that He will come again. After all, we have heard of kids at school when they have been bullied and mistreated by their peers. They don’t want to go to school or they find ways, even severe tactics, to avoid the bullies. Jesus was not bullied and mistreated by His peers, He was tortured, spit on, whipped and crucified by those whom He created. That is so unimaginable that is akin to trying to grasp the fact that God has no beginning or end; it is a tough mental exercise to grasp He has always existed. The fact that He will return, to a place where He was so mistreated makes little sense. But to return as a conquering King makes much more sense – this coming will be very different than the first one.
Paul’s admonition in Philippians 2:5 is worth noting, especially as we draw near to the time of year we celebrate the first advent of Christ. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” This text is a paradigm for how we should live as followers of Christ until the time of His second advent. One could even say what was good enough for Jesus ought to be good enough for ourselves. But this is a “supernatural” attitude cannot be created by our self- effort. This is cultivated by the Spirit of God and living under his direction. Here are the criteria:
Emptying ourselves (selflessness), being a bondservant, humble obedience to the will of the Father, obedience even to death.
That probably sounds easier than it looks… but Christ is our example not only in his first advent but how we are to live until His second advent. Surrender, reliance, humility and obedience to the Father is our calling and commitment.
What a way to honor the coming of Christ than to emulate His attitude at home, work, neighborhood and in life. For us will require implicitly trusting the Father and understanding He has a defined purpose for the journey we are on. What a profound way to honor His second advent than to live like Christ. Of course, what true believer would disagree?
The key starts with our “attitude” or literally our mindset. The power of our mind to be in sync with the mind of Christ is imperative in how we live. Without this mindset it is impossible to live like Christ; a mindset that must be cultivated by the indwelling Spirit of God. What we need at Christmas is not more gifts but more transformation into the character, or mindset of Christ.
Pastor Brad Little