Week 1: December 1-7, 2019
The season of Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas day, and it has a significant role in how we approach Christmas.
The word "advent" means, "the arrival of someone notable." It means someone important is on their way. (Spoiler alert: it's Jesus.)
Advent is the season when we are reminded that we are not celebrating some-thing, but some-one. This difference matters, because when you get ready to celebrate some-thing, the preparation is usually all about you and what you can get from that experience. But when you get ready to celebrate some-one, the preparation is about so much more than you.
During the season of Advent, our excitement and anticipation isn't about Santa, or family, or the presents. It's about Jesus.
Maybe it's hard to imagine now, but thousands of years ago, countless people were waiting with excitement for the coming of Jesus — literally. He hadn't been born yet.
People knew that someone was on the way, because God had promised it, but they weren't sure who they were waiting for. They did have some hints though.
About 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah shared the exciting news that someone important was on the way.
For many years, followers of God were anticipating the mighty King prophesied by Isaiah and others — someone who would be their Savior.
One person awaiting the arrival of his Savior was a man name Simeon. God had told Simeon through the Holy Spirit that before he died, Simeon would get the chance to see the promised Savior in the flesh. God made a promise to Simeon, and God kept that promise.
Can you imagine? Simeon was just an ordinary guy, but God singled him out. I like to imagine God was so excited to share the gift that was coming, that God wanted to hurry up and share the secret with someone.
Scripture tells us that Simeon and the rest of God's people, the Israelites, were waiting for the "consolation of Israel." What does that mean?
“Consolation" means comfort. Israel was waiting for someone to rescue them from their hardships, and they had plenty of those. Many of their hardships, they brought on themselves through their disobedience to God — as a result, they experienced many dark years of difficulty.
But despite years of hardship, war, captivity, and oppression, Israel still had the hope of their long-awaited Prince of Peace.
As Simeon held baby Jesus in his arms, I wonder if he reacted like some of those way-too-excited kids did when they opened their Christmas presents. I don't know, but I do know he said this moment had made his life complete.
Now that he'd seen Jesus, Simeon could die a happy man, because Simeon had been given the greatest gift of all — the gift of our Savior, Jesus.
Simeon's life is an example of hoping, waiting, and preparing for the coming of Jesus, which is what the season of Advent is all about.
Like Simeon did, during Advent . . .
We remember that God fulfills promises.
We trust that, no matter how dark life gets, God offers us hope and peace in Jesus.
We get ready to receive God's gift — our Savior.
But just like with any gift, you have to be willing and ready to receive the gift of Jesus.
God's gift of salvation through Jesus is . . .
- Forgiveness for every terrible thing we've done or will do.
- Eternal life in relationship with God.
- A new life right now as we learn to experience the greatest love we will ever know.
- And then God offers us even more gifts (as if we needed them): peace, joy, comfort, guidance, wisdom, and purpose, just to name a few.
You might be tempted to reject or ignore the gift of Jesus, but this Advent, I hope you'll choose instead to get ready to receive God's gift, because it is the best gift you could ever receive.
So, let's say you are willing to embrace God's greatest gift for the first time. This means you are ready to accept that:
- You need Jesus.
- God loves you (and everyone else too).
- Jesus was willing to offer His own life to save the life of every human.
If you've already received God's gift of salvation, this season is for you too. When you get ready to receive the gift of Jesus all over again, it might mean you . . .
Remember what God has already done for you.
Look forward to what God might want to do in your present.
The question you might have now is, "Now what?”
Whether you've been following Jesus for years, or you're still trying to figure out what you believe about Him, let's unwrap a few ways we can "get ready" to receive the gift of Jesus this Advent season:
- DECIDE TO LEARN. There's always more to learn about God, even if you have grown up in church. What are some ways we can learn, or continue learning, about God and the gifts God offers us?
- DO ONE LESS THING. Between Christmas concerts, school exams, parties, and family commitments, Christmastime can be pretty busy for some of us. Much of that may be out of your control, but there are some things you can change during this season. Maybe you can watch one less hour of television or take one thing off of your Christmas list. Making sacrifices like these over specific periods of time is sometimes called fasting, which is something Jesus modeled and encouraged us to practice. What's one less thing you can do this season?
- INVEST IN SOMEONE. As you'll learn more over the next few weeks, God's gift isn't just for you and me. It's a gift for the entire world. When we invest in others, like a friend, classmate, neighbor, family member, or teammate, we can make a significant impact and prepare the way to share God's gift with them. How can you invest in someone during this season?
This Advent season, let's get ready to receive God's great gift to us by deciding to learn, doing one less thing, and investing in others.
Questions To Think About:
What do you still need to do to prepare for Christmas?
How do you feel about this time of year? Why do you feel that way?
What’s something that makes you excited about Christmas? What’s something that makes you dread it?
How is preparing for an event different from preparing to spend time with a person?
Has your perspective on this season changed because of what you have read today? If so, how?
In your own words, what gifts could we prepare to receive from God during this season?
Read Mark 1:1-8. Why do you think God sent John the Baptist to help prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry to begin?
What’s one thing you want to do this Advent season to learn more about God and the gift of Jesus?
What’s one less thing you want to do this Advent season to prepare yourself to receive what God has for you?
What’s one thing you want to do this Advent season to invest in someone else?