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Summary of Advent Activity and Preaching

by Pastor Robert Dekker

During the Christmas season of 2015, we pray that crowds from around Coastal Sussex will come and be fascinated by the Unexpected Journeys linked to Christ’s first advent, “From There to Here!”.  By God’s grace, we will enter into the Biblical accounts, many of which where penned just less than 2000 years ago.

We will look at the details of the 5 main unexpected journeys:
-of the Seraphs  (the angels)
-of the Sages (the prophets)
-of the Shepherds (the locals)
-of the Seers (the Wisemen)
-of the Savior (the Christ)

These journeys are only unexpected from the human perspective, as they were set in motion in the mind of God even before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:19-21).

The focus for each of these scriptural Advent adventures is not simply to inform you, but rather to invite you personally into God’s narrative “O Come all Ye Faithful” and then to inspire you to “Go Tell it on the Mountain” so that others might know that to us a SAVIOR has been given…WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD  (Luke 2:11).

Why would we light an Advent Candle?

“Advent” is what we call the season, which leads us up to Christmas. It incorporates the 5 services preparing God’s people for Christmas Day [which we recognize as the traditional date of Dec. 25th]. The Season of Advent includes the 4 Sunday services together with the Christmas Eve celebration.  So for the four weeks following Thanksgiving, it’s as if we’re reliving the greatest story of Christ’s incarnation, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation—through the one called the “Christ.”

The word advent simply means—“coming.”  Those local body of believers who embrace the advent themes, do so as another means of fulfilling the mandate in the communion sacrament: “to show forth the Lord’s death until He comes.”  Many do focus on the Lord’s death, but not as many seem to focus on the second aspect of that imperative---to consider the reality of Christ's next coming.

Man-made advent traditions vary when linked to different cultures and denominations, but all are designed to prepare God’s people for the next advent---for Christ’s second coming in glory (See how it is explained to the believers in I Thess. 4 & 5).  Some may utilize a wreath.  Some may prefer to use the purple candles only.  Some may prefer to include families.  Some may even make it a dramatic presentation.  But since God has not declared how we must prepare for the next advent, we have liberty as to how we are to join with the apostle John in the final verses of Revelation to say, “Even so Lord, come quickly!”

During each Advent Service at New Covenant this year, we will focus on one of the 5 dominant Christmas narratives: The Angelic narratives, the story of the Magi, the experiences of the Shepherds, the promises proclaimed by the Prophets of old, and the actual arrival of the Christ there at the Nativity.  There is no set order for 4 of the narratives; yet it is evidently clear that the focus must be on Christ alone on Christmas Eve.

These 5 Scriptural narratives help us to see that Christ’s coming was no accident.  It was not done in secret.  His arrival was very significant.  His timing was stellar.  And the incarnation’s ramifications are so very far reaching.  So let’s look at each:

The Seraphs

-The angels are the ones who break God’s 400 years of silence.  Since the close of the New Testament era with the prophet Malachi and with the corresponding building of the city walls in Jerusalem by Nehemiah, God had been quietly preparing the world for the coming of its creator.  The angels make the announcements to Mary, to Joseph, to Zachariah (ie: John the Baptizer’s dad) and to the Shepherds.  Luke also gives us a vivid picture of their excitement regarding the Christ as he reveals their majestic communications to the shepherd above the fields near Bethlehem.  They simply could not hold back their celebration!

The Sages

-The Wisemen’s story is included in Matthew’s biography of the Christ.  In his account of the story, he reveals how God put it in the heart of these leaders from the East to sacrifice their time (probably over 2 years of traveling) and even their treasures (ie: the gold, frankincense, and myrrh).  Their worship of Jesus tells us that Christ was not just the King for the Jewish people, but that He is the King of kings.

The Shepherds

-These individuals are never considered to be the most educated or the most informed.  But for God to specifically send an invitation to the lowly shepherds while in their fields, He is telling all of us about His bigger message.  God shows us that Christ’s redemption is for all kinds of people—generically including mankind.  The Savior is for the rich and the poor, for the educated and those who are not uneducated, for the popular and even for the “invisible.”  For unto us the child was given!

The Seers

-The prophets of old often revealed the coming judgments of God; God called them to share his message of holiness and righteousness.  Calling people to repentance was always on their lips. because it was needed. But it is also true that many of the prophets also were blessed to offer an optimist message of hope; this message was rooted into the reality of a coming savior.  There are over 400-recorded prophecies which help to describe the Messianic Hope of the world.  Isaiah was of the most prolific…giving us insight that the child would be born to a young girl (Isaiah 7:14).  But he also goes on to tell us that that child will also be ruler of the world (Isaiah 9:6).  Later in chapter 53, He reveals that this child will be despised and rejected, bearing our iniquity in Himself.  So when you look at the nativity details…. you can see that it was all according to God’s fortold plan.  It was God’s doing.  This gives us great confidence that the second coming will also be God’s doing!

The Savior

-The incarnation of God was speculation until the Holy Spirit’s work of conception in the womb of Mary; some have wittingly referred to it as the “Immaculate reception!”  For the creator to enter His creation is unfathomable.  It is even more unbelievable to ponder the fact that the “God of the Highest” would chose to humble Himself to come to earth via the birth canal, in the helpless condition of a needy baby.  In Phil. 2:1-10, you can see how the apostle helps us to see that His humility was required in order for the Christ to be enabled to take our place in suffering.  The author of Hebrews further enlightens our spiritual sight to declare that the incarnation was the means whereby Christ could both be the priest and the sacrifice (which would propitiate God’s wrath upon human sin).

Simply stated, the 5 candles of advent are lit in order to help us to remember what God has preserved for us in the Bible regarding the first coming.

Each time we light a candle, we can draw attention to that Biblical account.  In so doing, we can see more of the fullness of this world-changing accomplishment of Christmas!

As to the color of the Candles at NCPC:
White corresponds to the angels  (who are often presented as if in white apparel)
Purple corresponds to the Wise men (who are sometimes linked to eastern royalties)
Green corresponds with the Shepherds (who, as care givers to the sheep, are accustomed to being out in the fields)
Gold corresponds to the Prophets (whose messages are to be valued more than Gold –Psalm 19:10-14).
Red corresponds to the Christ (whose red blood was to be shed as the once-for-all-time Passover Lamb)

The purpose for celebrating advent is not only to look backward, but also to look forward.  Christ’s return is certain (Acts 1:11).  Although we do not have any reason to believe that he will use angels and shepherds and wisemen to facilitate His second coming, we can have increased devotion to our blessed hope (I Thess.4:15-17) by seeing His sovereign plan implemented!

1 Thessalonians 4:15   For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:17   Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

“Glory to God in the Highest
And on earth Peace, Good will towards Men”
Luke 2:14 ff