/Tuesday, November 30, 2021
It is the season of Advent. Advent means ‘arrival’ – but not just an arrival, but the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. In Christian circles, we understand Advent to be the season of the arrival of God – and that arrival is preceded by a series of events. So, we celebrate four Sundays of Advent, and we light four candles – one on each Sunday.
5 Candles of Advent
On the first Sunday we light the prophetic candle (the candle of hope) – for before God arrives, He sends his prophets.
On the second Sunday we light Bethlehem’s candle (the candle of faith) – for before God arrives, He calls us to have faith and gives us a sign that we might believe Him. Remember what the prophet said – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
On the third Sunday we light the shepherd’s candle (the candle of joy) – for before God arrives, He gives joy to those who have faith. Scripture records, “There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.“ It is interesting that the joy is mixed with this holy fear at the sight of the angels.
On the fourth Sunday we light the angels’ candle (the candle of peace) – for before God arrives, He proclaims His Kingdom. So, the angles said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Finally, we light a fifth candle (called the Christ candle) on Christmas Eve as we celebrate the actual birth of Jesus Christ – the arrival of God from His domain into our domain here on earth.
Christ is the fulfillment of the whole of Advent because Christ is the fulfillment of our hope. He leads us out of bondage to sin and fear, and into His glorious Kingdom.
The First Advent
It is interesting to note that the Advent we all commemorate each Christmas is actually not the first advent in Scripture. For that, you must go back to the book of Exodus. In Exodus, God comes to Egypt – to a Gentile nation that is subjugating His people. And just as in the second Advent, the arrival of Christ, there are events linked to the arrival of God in Egypt.
First, God sent Moses – the preeminent prophet.
Then, Moses told the people of God to have faith, and showed them the signs God gave Him to perform – the staff that turned into a snake. Exodus records, “And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.”  Consider the similarity with the advent of Christ and the shepherds, who believed the angels, looked upon the Christ child and returned to their fields, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
Then, God sent the plagues. Great and powerful wonders that Egypt experienced, and Israel saw. God was giving His people reason for joy, but a joy mixed with a holy fear as the end of their years of bondage was signaled. Just as the angels filled the shepherds with fear yet proclaimed joy.
Then, God proclaimed His Kingdom and gave peace to His people by covering Egypt in thick darkness even as His people had light. No one could work, and the Hebrews had rest from their labor.
Finally, God visited Egypt. Exodus records, “Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt.” As He had promised, God Himself came to Egypt. He came as His people ate the Passover meal. He came in a pillar of fire, and His arrival meant the freedom of His people at the same time as it meant unrecoverable catastrophe for unrepentant Egypt.
A Third Avent
Think about that. Friends, have you considered that we are living in a third Advent?
Has not God sent His church – which is certainly more than one man or a handful of prophets? Has not God given us the sign of His Holy Spirit? Has not God sent climate change? Truly, greater wonders yet will come, even as John prophesied in Revelation, “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” 
Friends, this Advent, let us participate with God in what He is doing. Let us double down on our efforts to bring the Good News of Christ to all peoples – and let us work diligently to do that before His sudden appearing brings disaster on all the unrepentant. Amen.
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