December is here, and with it is our celebration of Advent, a word with which everyone may not be familiar. The word Advent has its roots in Latin and essentially means “coming.” The church has long used the term to refer to both the birth of Jesus and for his promised return. What many of us forget during the celebration of Christmas is that we are remembering not only that Jesus has come, but that he is coming again!
I think it is fitting that we are about to spend our third Advent season while going through the Gospel of John. During Advent of 2016, we saw that Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. In 2017’s Advent season, we saw that Jesus was the Light of the World. This year during Advent, we are looking at Jesus as our great High Priest who prays for us and sends us out on mission to be the lights in the world by being transformed by the Word of God.
We have already begun our celebrations as a church with the first Sunday of Advent as we look to how Christ has brought us Hope. In the next three weeks, we will be looking at how he brings us peace, joy, and love. I think it would be helpful for us to look at all four of these in light of the Gospel of John as we prepare our hearts this month to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Advent is a season of hope for us because we have been rescued out of darkness. We are not only rescued out of this darkness, but we are called to be participants in the illuminating of the world by allowing the hope of Christ be seen through us.
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:16–18)
We have hope because of the rescue Christ has given us and because we know that in him we have a new identity. Our identity is bound up with him, and therefore nothing that the world throws at us should bring us down. Our hope is that while we are still in this world, we are not of it.
Let us pray to be people of hope by being people whose only hope is Christ this season.
In a world where the headlines constantly speak of war, violence, injustice, corruption, abuse, and crime, it is easy to be overwhelmed with all that seems bad; however, Jesus has come into the world to bring peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Jesus has come into this world to bring peace. He does so by overcoming the evil of this world through his righteousness. We have no reason to fear the evils of this world because in Christ we are given life and life eternal. We have the power to be people of peace even in a world of war. We can do so because Christ overcame evil with his death, but God raised him from the dead because of his righteousness. As we celebrate Jesus’ first coming, we know that he is the Prince of Peace who has brought about eternal peace—and that at his second coming he will conquer all evil for good. Even as we patiently wait his return, we do not grow discouraged because, as Jesus told his disciples,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33)
Let us pray that we might be a people of peace by not only speaking of the peace that Christ has brought in our own lives but also by seeking to make peace through the power of Christ in our own lives.
In the same passages in John that we have seen Jesus speak of the hope and peace that he brings to this world, we see a promise that he will bring joy.
In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father that his disciples might have joy fulfilled.
“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:13)
Advent is a season for us to have joy because Christ has come to rescue us. In grace, God has made possible our rescue from sin and the restoration of fellowship with him, our Creator. What greater joy could there be than that when we trust in Christ we have all of eternity to spend with our Savior and Creator? All that is broken will be made new. There will be no more sickness, nor death, nor pain, nor suffering. Jesus has made joy possible.
“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22)
We have so much to be joyful about. Let us be a people of joy. May the source of our joy—Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior—be made known to all.
Finally, we celebrate love during this season of Advent. Jesus himself is the very definition of love. He spoke of what love looks like to his disciples, for his love was to be the transforming power behind the love that they were to show each other and the world around them.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12–13)
Ultimately, we celebrate Christmas to remind ourselves and one another that Christ came into this world as a humble baby. He took on human flesh, lived among us, served us, and then ultimately died for us because he loved us and was willing to take on our punishment so that we could have life with him. We have the greatest reason in the world to love one another, for we have been given the greatest example in Christ’s love for us.
Let us be a people who love well this Christmas season. Let us pray that we might share the love of Christ with joy, hope, and peace. May God be glorified through his church.