Why do we celebrate Advent?
The Advent season is the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a time of anticipation and renewal. The word Advent comes from the Latin word, Advenio - it means “to come to” or “to arrive.” And so Advent is the time we look back the Messiah’s first coming – the birth of Christ. But we also look forward to His second coming. That one day when Christ will return. So Advent is a time of remembrance and anticipation. Looking back and looking forward.
That is Advent – but, why do we celebrate? If someone were to ask you, “Why do you celebrate Christmas,” how would you answer? Many of us say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” “It’s the Savior’s birth.” True – but that doesn’t really explain why we celebrate.
So let me ask this - what compelled a holy, righteous and just God to leave the beauty and majesty of His throne to walk the dusty roads of this messy sinful broken world? What caused God to come in the flesh and live an innocent sinless life only to be beaten by Roman guards, and then nailed to a cross, to be pierced and crucified among criminals? What compelled the Son of God to become a sacrifice – not only for a few, but for the whole world!
To fully celebrate the significance of Advent, to deeply appreciate the baby in a manger - we must know why we celebrate. To be able to sing "Joy to the World" or to be able to say with the angels, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy … for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” to proclaim that we have seen a great light, we must answer the question – why. Why did God do it? To answer that, let us travel back to the day when Darkness Came.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Thus, was the day darkness came – Thus was the day sin entered our world.
But what is this darkness, this sin? The seed of sin begins with a thought in the mind and heart – it doubts God, questions His motives and purity and His holiness – sin questions His character - and when left unchecked it creates a desire within the human heart to rebel against God and once conceived it gives birth to sin, and when fully grown sin brings forth death.
And what is death – permanent separation from life. And that is what we see in Gen. 3 – death and separation, specifically death and separation from relationships. God, others, self, creation.
Sin is Rebellion against God
Sin – it is personal rebellion against God. Sin desires autonomy. Sin says to God, “Don’t tell me how to live – what I can and can’t do!” And when we rebel against God and choose to do life our way, there is always a price - a deadly destructive price that creates a permanent separation from God and from others. The wages of sin is death – physical, spiritual, emotional – something always dies.
Sin is Rejection of God
Not only is sin rebellion against God, it is also rejection of God. Sin is a rejection of God’s holiness, God’s perfect standards, God’s morality. Sin is an offense to God – why, just because we did something wrong? Partly, but mostly because it’s personal – sin is a personal offense to God’s perfect and righteous character.
Sin is a Reality
Sin is rebellion, it’s rejection, but’s also a reality. Sin is not a theoretical religious word. Sin is not a subjective archaic teaching of the past that’s out of date with modern society. Sin is not old-fashioned – it is a reality. It is in our very DNA.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
Sin is in the very fabric of our being. A.W. Tozer – writing about the sins said this -
“They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies their subtlety and their power. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.”
Sin is a reality – not only did Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden tree, but in essence, we have all taken a bite and therefore every person knows too well the reality of the pain and death and guilt and shame and the anguish of sin and living in a sinful world.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In other words, choosing to live in sin is a rejection of Christ and to reject Christ means condemnation, judgement and Hell.
Sin is a reality – and it separates us from truth, from hope, from what is good, right, and virtuous. Sin is destructive and it creates a culture of death and chaos and fear and confusion and hate. Sin destroys individuals, families, communities, nations – sin destroys everything in its path.
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.
Sin leaves us without hope as we attempt to make our way in the deep shadow of darkness. Sin leaves us dead – separated from God and from life. With sin there is no hope of self-resuscitation – we cannot save ourselves, let alone someone else. Dead people can’t save anything or anyone.
Every one of us has eaten from the tree. Each of us has incurred guilt and condemnation. For there is no distinction, doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, the color of your skin, rich or poor, male or female “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, and the wrath of God remains on him” – John 3:36. We are all doomed to Hell.
So what do we do? Let me read to you again
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
This is known by many scholars as the protevangelium – it’s Latin, and it means the First Gospel. Even at the onset and entrance of sin into the world God promised good news - that the seed of the woman (Jesus Christ) would conquer the seed of the serpent (death).
Even before Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, God promised hope and salvation! He promised, that one day a Redeemer would come to Zion who is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, and He would be born of the line of David, born to the virgin Mary – God promised hope and salvation for all humanity! That Jesus, the Son of God who was perfect and sinless, would become sin for us, He would become our sin that we might become the righteousness of God.
God promised to undo what was done in the Garden. God promised that one day, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ would die for the ungodly. That God would demonstrate his own love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ would die for us.
God promised to justify, to declare us not guilty in His sight – He promised to redeem us, that the blood of Christ would be the propitiation of our sin if we receive Him by faith.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
So let me ask again, why do we celebrate Advent? Jesus has given the promise of forgiveness of sins, the promise of new life, the promise of eternal life, the promise of a restored life … He has promised that
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
And when Jesus sets us free – we are free indeed!
Again, why do we celebrate Advent? It’s not about the nostalgia. It’s not about the lights, the trees, the songs, the shopping or presents – it’s not even about a baby in a manger – but why there was a baby in the manger. God, in the flesh, came to seek and save the lost. Need I say more?
Unless you know Christ as your Savior, you have confessed Christ as Lord, that He died and rose again on the third day and you have repented of sins and you are actively pursuing Christ – you really have no reason to celebrate.
ADVENT CANDLE with children