This year at our church (The Fountain, Phoenix) I took a step into new territory and led our congregation through the celebration of Advent. The Pentecostal expression of Christianity I grew up in never celebrated Advent, and I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it was viewed as something that only the “nominal” churches did – too restrictive and liturgical for the expressive freedom embraced by Pentecostals. Perhaps it was simply a lack of understanding of the history and depth surrounding the celebration and, hence, it was out of sight/out of mind. Regardless, I found a richness in this celebration that breathed freshness into my spirit about the incarnation of Christ and message of hope that it brings to all humanity. ( For a brief history of Advent, click here )To listen to or view the Advent messages at The Fountain, click here )
Advent simply means “coming” or “arrival” and the Advent season is designed to build into our heart a sense of expectancy for the coming of the Savior into the world. It’s a season that enables us to identify with the ancient people of God, Israel, who were given the promise of a Messiah and waited expectantly for His Advent. Through Advent we identify with the hope of a people who lived in the space between promise and fulfillment, much as we today live in the space between the promise and fulfillment of His Second Advent, when all of the brokenness of our world will be made right. Through Advent, we understand that while darkness may linger over us and over our journey in this space between promise and fulfillment, a light is coming that will dispel that darkness and illuminate our lives with hope, love, joy and peace. Advent asks us to expectantly reflect and genuinely repent, making preparation in our heart for His arrival.
My prayer moving into 2017 is that the wonder and awe of Advent will continue to fill our lives with expectant hope, love, joy and peace. The space between promise and fulfillment in our lives can be difficult at times and filled with darkness. If that is the case in your life, take a moment and remind yourself of this ancient Advent prophecy from Isaiah.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2, 3a, 6 NIV)