Results tagged “Advent” from Reformation21 Blog

'Tis the Season

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Sinclair Ferguson has recently released his second advent themed book, Love Came Down. Together with his previously published Child in the Manger, this has quickly become one of my favorite sources for advent meditations. That is not at all surprising, as I have found Sinclair's advent sermons to be among the most thought provoking and spiritually enriching. There are gold nuggets in all of them. For instance, in one of his sermons on the virgin birth, Sinclair explained, 

"If God was to speak the language and the mathematics and the physics that was necessary to express creation out of nothing and virginal conception, our minds would seek to expand to their limit--to take it in until we reach the the point that we said, 'I'm sorry that I asked the question. I am just a man or a woman, a boy or a girl. This is too great for me!' And you see, that's the point that we come to recognize that here is the difference between the believer and the unbeliever. That's the point where the believer is content to say, 'You are God and I am not, and I'm content that it should be that way.' Whereas the unbeliever will say, with Friedrich Nietzsche, 'If there is a God who can do such things, how can I bear not to be that God; and so I will not believe.' Yes, it is an amazing, supernatural miracle; but like God's great works-creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection-done safe from men's prying eyes. He brings light out of darkness. He brings His Son into the dark womb of a virgin."

Dr. Ferguson preached a significant number of advent sermons during his time at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. He has also preached a few in St. George's Tron in Glasgow, Scotland and in St. Peter's Free Church in Dundee, Scotland. You can find these messages below:

 

St. Peter's Free - Carol Service (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Night Before Christmas

The Incarnate Word (John 1:14)

Led by Another Way (Matt. 2:1-12)

The Rejected Word (John 10:1-13)

The First Woman in His Family Tree (Gen. 3:1-21)

The Light Giving Word (John 1:4-9)

Mary: Mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38)

The Eternal Word (John 1:1-3)

Joseph: The Prophet (Matt. 1:18-25)

Joseph: The Journeyman (Luke 2:1-75)

Joseph: The Dreamer

Joseph: The Son of David

And the Baby Lying in a Manger

The Under Shepherd's Presents

A Four-Legged Wooly Hump of a Christmas

How Christmas Brings Everything You Need (Heb. 2:5-18)

Celebration: the Joy of Christmas

Adoration: the Effect of Christmas #1 (Luke 2:14)

Incarnation: the Meaning of Christmas (John 1:1-14)

The Man with PCSS (Post-Christmas Stress Syndrome) (Matt 2:1-15)

Jesus, Name Above All Names: Immanuel (Matt. 1:18-25)

Name Above All Names: Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25)

Jesus, Name Above All Names: The Fourfold Name (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Name Above all Names (Phil. 2:1-11)

A Troubling Visitor (Luke 1:5-25)

Magnificat (Luke 1:30)

Around the Manger:Shepherds (Luke 2:1-20)

Around the Manger: Jesus (John 1:1-18)

Around the Manger: Mary (Luke 1:26-38)

Exodus II (Matthew 2:13-23)

An Angel's View of Christmas: What Angels Long to See (1 Peter 1:1-12)

An Angel's View of Christmas: What Angels Come to Do (Matthew 1:18-25)

An Angel's View of Christmas: What Angels Want to Say (Luke 2:8-20)

Born Into a World of Poverty (Luke 2:1-7)

A Teenager's Christmas (Luke 1 & 2)

The First Christmas (Luke 2:8-20)

Announced Very Unexpectedly (Matt. 1:18-25)

Prepared in Ancient History (Matt. 1:1-17)

Promised in Earliest Prophecy (Gen. 3:1-15)

Glory to God in the Highest (Luke 2:8-20)

The Coming of Messiah (Isaiah 9:6)

It Was the Best and Worst of Times (Luke 1:26-38)

The Advent Season: Not Just Christmas

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Early in my pastoral ministry a thoughtful young man came with an interesting question while our congregation was in the midst of celebrating the Advent season. The question arose from a hymn sung during a Lord's Day worship service. The hymn was the Isaac Watts classic "Joy to the World." The question was, "Pastor, why are we singing a hymn during Christmas containing lyrics that refer to the 2nd coming of Christ?" My pastoral response was twofold.

First, together we examined the hymn. It soon became obvious the hymn actually contained lyrics that referred to both the 1st Advent (i.e. His Incarnation and Birth) and lyrics to the 2nd Advent (His Second Coming). Furthermore, the hymn, verse by verse, traces the triumph of Christ as the Redeemer of His people from His 1st Advent to His 2nd Advent.

Secondly, we noted there are multiple hymns sung during the Advent season which exalt the Lord for His redeeming work in both the 1st and 2nd Advents. Then, it was my turn to ask a question. "Why do you think so many Advent hymns sung at "Christmas" extol both Advents of Christ?" The answer though simple has been lost to many. But, if recaptured can lead us to a profound blessing.

The reason so many hymns and confessions associated with the Christmas celebrations reference both the 1st and 2nd Advents is because the early church intentionally designed the Advent Season to celebrate both the 1st and 2nd Advents of Christ. Why?

The Advent is a work of God's grace whereby God Himself has come to us, to be among us and become one of us in order to save us from our sins and will come again for us to be with us forever. The Old Testament, through types, symbols, prophecies and Christophanies (i.e. pre-incarnate appearances of Christ) anticipated the coming of the Messiah - the Promised One - in whom "all of the Promises of God are yes and amen." Those Messianic prophetic Promises can be summed up with two specific Promises.

  • The first Promise was that the Messiah would "save His people from all of their sins" and deliver them from all of His and their enemies.
  • The second Promise was that the Messiah would not only defeat these enemies but would ultimately destroy them and deliver His people into a glorious forever Kingdom.

But when the Messiah came into the world to fulfill God's promises He revealed a surprising yet Biblically consistent truth. The Epiphany of the Messiah was not one Advent to accomplish two Divine Promises but two Advents, each one designed to accomplish one of the two Promises.

The 1st Advent or the Incarnation when the Son of God humbled Himself by taking upon Himself true humanity through the prophesied Virgin conception/birth was designed to fulfill the first Promise that God would "save His people from their sins" and defeat all of His and their enemies. The second Promise that He would receive His people to Himself and destroy His defeated enemies in His 1st Advent would be fulfilled by a 2nd Advent when He would "come again" in that same incarnate body now resurrected and transformed for all eternity - Two Epiphanies - Two Advents.

"For the grace of God has "appeared" (ἐπεφάνη - 1st Advent) bringing salvation to all men; disciplining us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age; looking for the blessed hope and "appearance" (ἐπιφάνειαν - 2nd Advent) of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:11-14).

Gradually for multiple reasons the Advent season initiated by the celebration of His 1st Advent - Christmas - when He was born "to save His people from their sins" and to defeat His and our enemies at the Cross, became the singular focus of the Advent season. One reason is that the 1st Advent is the occasion of His humiliation which was accomplished, not by the subtraction of His deity but, by the addition of His humanity. Another reason is that the 1st Advent celebrates His Incarnation, a necessary act of God to save sinners - "by a man came death, by a man comes the resurrection of the dead." Yet another reason is that the triumph of the 1st Advent assures the 2nd Advent and the 2nd Advent consummates the victory of the 1st Advent. A final reason is the 1st Advent is a fact of history while the 2nd Advent is a prophetic promise which makes it pre-written history.

But pastorally, while not being enslaved or conscience-bound to observe a church calendar, I would suggest that if we intentionally returned to the historic emphasis of the Advent season which intentionally celebrates the 1st Advent while also anticipating the 2nd Advent we could add a theological focus which would enhance our pastoral ministries of both celebration/worship and discipleship/equipping. So, here is a pastoral recommendation: Start reclaiming the vibrancy of the advent season from secularization by enhancing our commitment to the great commission of making disciples through emphasizing the inseparable dynamic relationship of both advents of Christ.

In a word, let's return to the historic objective of using the Advent season to affirm both the victory of Christ in His 1st Advent and our longing for the consummation of His victory in the 2nd Advent. In so doing we would not only minister to a heart-felt need in the lives of God's people we would also more effectively disciple God's people and more effectively proclaim the Gospel of Hope to the world.

The Advent season, historically, was designed to minister to the grace-implanted and grace-nurtured heart of every Christian. A heart which both "rests" in the joy of our Savior's victorious 1st Advent and yet a heart which is also "restless" in the anticipation of our Savior's 2nd Advent to receive us to Himself that we might be with Him in a New Heavens and a New Earth forever.

"I go away to prepare a place for you and if I go away to prepare a place of you I will come again so that where I am there you may be also... Even so come quickly Lord Jesus."