What Is Advent?

Josh Buice

brown wooden table

The English word “advent” is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming; arrival; or an appearing or coming into place.” Various Christian denominations and groups celebrate or in some way acknowledge the advent season. Typically, churches will focus on the coming of Jesus’ birth four weeks prior to Christmas. In some churches, there is no set commitment to celebrate a four-week advent season, but the sermons are focused on the birth of Christ for a week or two prior to Christmas.

What’s the Point?

For centuries prophets delivered the message of judgment and hope to God’s people. During this time, the faithful remnant anticipated the coming of the King. Theologians often refer to Isaiah as the Gospel of the Old Testament because of the prophet’s striking predictions of Jesus birth, death, and resurrection (Is 52-53). In Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6, the prophet gave a message of good news to the people who were suffering under the judgment of God.

Advent is a means of remembering the hope of God’s people that was focused on a child who would be conceived by a virgin and this child would be none other than Immanuel—God with us.

Advent is a means of remembering the hope of God’s people that was focused on a child who would be conceived by a virgin and this child would be none other than Immanuel—God with us. He would one day have the government centrally placed upon his shoulders and would rule in such a way that peace would come to God’s people.

As we survey the Old Testament, we find the people of God in constant anticipation. Some theologians estimate the number of prophecies regarding Jesus’ birth to be in the hundreds. For generation after generation, faithful families would gather and remember the promises of God as they longed for the fullness of joy in their hearts of anticipation. We find clear and powerful prophecies such as Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

One thing is for certain, the people of God were in constant turmoil, tragedy, confusion, rebellion, and suffering under the rule of enemies. The Psalms are replete with the cries of God’s people for deliverance. The prophets delivered the message of God’s judgment that included the reality of deep distress and darkness that would cover the land, but there was always hope that God would keep his promise and that his covenant would be fulfilled.

The point of advent is to remember the anticipation of God’s people and recall the faithfulness of God to his people in sending his only begotten Son into the world to save his people from their sin (Matt 1:21).

The remnant of faithful people longed for God to send his deliverer who was first promised in Genesis 3:15 and declared to the people in the preaching and writing of the prophets. Before the coming of Christ, the leaders of Israel were vile men who perverted God’s law by their additions, twisted God’s gospel into legalism, were pagan idolators and whitewashed tombs. Jesus called them vipers. The people had lived for some 400 years without a message from God. And suddenly, the light of hope appeared just as Isaiah 9:1-2 promised.

The point of advent is to remember the anticipation of God’s people and recall the faithfulness of God to his people in sending his only begotten Son into the world to save his people from their sin (Matt 1:21). As we celebrate advent with joy filled hearts, let’s recall the words of Peter:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12 )

Remember the Second Advent

Today, we have the wonderful privilege to survey redemptive history by reading God’s sufficient word. We have the joy of reading the prophecies of Isaiah and then comparing the birth of Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke and celebrating the faithfulness of God.

However, we are a people of anticipation too. We don’t merely look back and seek to sympathize with God’s people prior to the birth of Christ. No. We understand what anticipation feels like as well. Today we live with constant anticipation of Jesus’ second coming—the second advent. We live between the first and second advents of Jesus. The tension and perspective of our place in redemptive history (between the two advents) should be clearly illustrated each time we gather at the Lord’s Table for worship.

The tension and perspective of our place in redemptive history (between the two advents) should be clearly illustrated each time we gather at the Lord’s Table for worship.

As we navigate the trials, tribulations, pressures, and valley moments of human depravity—we journey onward with hope. As we experience sin, disappointment, hardship, sorrow, and death we press on in hope that Christ has gone before us and that just as God was faithful in the first advent, he will likewise be faithful in the second advent.

As we celebrate the hope of Christmas, let us likewise remember that God is faithful to keep his promises. His covenant of grace will be fulfilled. Jesus came the first time in his incarnation as predicted, but we must not lose sight of the reality that Jesus will come again as the victorious King. As we feel the pain of sin, the sorrow of loss, and observe the church being deformed according to the present evil age—we must remember that Jesus is coming.

In the midst of deep darkness and at the right time according to God’s plan, Jesus was born. The cry of the little baby boy was a testimony that God had not forgotten his people. One day, the King will appear once again in victorious splendor and majesty—at just the right time. We often sing Isaac Watts’ hymn “Joy to the World” at Christmas. We recall these familiar words of hope:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

The hymn was originally penned by Watts based on Psalm 98, a Messianic psalm that actually refers to Jesus’ second advent. So, as we live between the first and second advent with great anticipation, let us find hope and joy in the coming of our King.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

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Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.