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The Glory Has Come: Encountering the Wonder of Christmas - An Advent Devotional
by Larry Sparks
Learn More | Meet Larry Sparks
A TIME OF PREPARATION
by Norman Benz
And then there was silence. Four hundred years of silence. No word from God through the prophets, priests, or kings. Just silence! From the days of Malachi to the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew—nothing.
It must have been ingrained in the spirit of the people in Israel to have a great hope and expectancy—surely the Messiah will come. Over seven hundred years earlier, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed that God was coming in a very special manner:
- Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. ...Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. ...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 7:14; 9:1,6 New International Version).
Then everything changed. It was the fulfillment of prophecy. The future was changed. The Messiah has come. It was unbelievable. God became human. Jesus was the Christ, the Son of Man, but yet, He was the Son of God. Isaiah said, “God is with us, Immanuel.”
The Holy Spirit hovered over Mary and “she was found to be with child” (Matthew 1:18).
In Christendom today, many churches observe the season of Advent. Advent means “coming.” It points to the birth of Jesus our Messiah, but also a time of preparing for His coming. The longing for the Messiah that was planted deep in the Jewish faith and people caused them to know that something better was coming.
Advent is a time of preparation. In our personal moments, it is a time for seeking the presence of God in our world and watching for the “restoration of all things” (Matthew 19:28 TPT). In our Advent preparations for His coming, a powerful truth emerges: Jesus the Christ does not save from a distance. He is intimately involved with us. He walks among us. He dwells with us. He went to the disenfranchised and the unwanted. He identifies with the oppressed and the excluded. God became flesh (John 1:14); He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9); He became “God with us.”
For years I have celebrated Advent with our congregation, and it looks something like this:
The four Sundays before Christmas are known as the four Sundays of Advent. While there are variations within the tradition, these Sundays are known as hope, love, joy, and peace.
The Advent Candle Wreath is a circle reminding us of the perfection and eternity of God also indicating His everlasting love. The evergreen branches are symbolic of life. The three purple candles represent the royalty of Christ and the penitence of humankind. Only the shepherd’s candle is a different color, rose, signifying joy.
The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of hope. Our hope is in God, and in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the One appointed by God to be Judge of all things. He is the One through whom God has promised to save and redeem His people. We light this candle to remind us that He is our Hope and the Hope of the world. We thank God for the promises He has made to us and for the light He has brought into the world. There is hope in our hearts for the Messiah will lead us out of dark and difficult times. This candle of hope reminds us that Jesus is sent to us because of God’s great love.
The second Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of love. Jesus shows us God’s perfect love. He is God’s perfect love in human form. Those who believe in Him and live in Him live in love. Love transforms and perfects all things. It never ends. We light this candle to remind us that God is love. We thank God for the hope He gives us, for the peace He bestows, for the joy He pours into our hearts, and for the love that redeems us and shows us the way.
The third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of joy. Our joy is in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. Like peace, joy is a gift from God. It overtakes us and fills us when we remember what God has done and what He has promised to do. We light this rose-colored candle to remind us that Christ came, and is coming, so that all people might have a rich and abundant life. We thank God for the hope He gives us, for the peace He bestows, and for the joy He pours into our hearts. This candle reminds us of the angels’ great news told to the shepherds.
The fourth Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of peace and reminds us that Jesus came to bring peace and goodwill. Our peace is found in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. John the Baptist, and all the prophets remind us that to receive peace we must be prepared for it. We light this candle to remind us that Christ is the Prince of Peace, the One promised from the beginning of the world. We thank God for the hope He gives us and for the peace He bestows.
During the Christmas Eve service, there is a fifth candle in the middle of the wreath—a large white candle. This candle represents that Christ the Messiah has come. On this night, we light the Christ Candle—He has come. This is the ultimate purpose for our Advent preparations—the baby Jesus.
The failure of the people of biblical history to represent God points to the necessity of the advent of Christ. Prepare your heart for something new. Isaiah 43:19 (NLT) says, “I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Holy Spirit, put a longing in our hearts for more of Jesus. Holy Spirit, do a creative work through us. Breathe on us, Holy Spirit. Hover over us. Give us wisdom and revelation. Create within us a great hope. Dispel disappointment. Bring new life and invigorate us with a renewed resolve.
NORMAN BENZ has been in the pastoral ministry for fifty years. He and his wife Judy are the co-founding pastors of Covenant Centre International in 1991 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Since their church received a powerful outpouring from the Holy Spirit in 1997 their lives and Covenant have been transformed as they continue to keep the Holy Spirit fire burning. Norman holds a M.Ed. (Florida Atlantic University), M. Div. (Church of God School of Theology), and received his D. Min. from Reformed Theological Seminary. His dissertation project was Revival: When the Holy Spirit Comes Down. He and Judy continue to be a catalyst for Holy Spirit.
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