The Christmas season! For many, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” filled with “tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow!” When snow starts to fall, lighted decorations go up, and chestnuts start roasting on open fires, everybody agrees that “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”
But the Advent season is not as well known. Most people know it has something to do with how the Church celebrates Christmas, but they’re a little hazy on the details. So to clear up any mystery, Advent is the season on the Church calendar that leads up to December 25. Advent means “coming,” so this is the time to joyfully anticipate the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem. It’s kind of like when a little girl or boy has a countdown to their birthday—the excitement leading up to the big day is almost as much fun as the event itself.
Wise Men Looking for the King
We’re all familiar with the story of the wise men—the magi. They started on their journey knowing a great king was to be born, and that journey was, in a manner of speaking, the first Advent season. They were anticipating the birth and what it would mean to the world, even though they didn’t know any of the specifics. They may have been the only ones “celebrating Advent,” but they took it very seriously. And eventually they were able to meet and worship the young king.
And it’s the same for us. When Advent finally ends and becomes Christmas Day, we celebrate and worship too—giving thanks that God sent his only Son to live among us, teach us the truth, die for our sins, and conquer death by rising again. The full story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest news ever proclaimed! And it all starts with his arrival as a little baby, born in a stable in Bethlehem.
But the Bible tells us it’s only the first Advent. Another one still awaits us in the future. Since Advent means “coming,” this second one is better known as the “Second Coming.” In the Gospel of John Jesus tells his disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me.” (John 14:3).
“I will come back.” That was his plan all along—to return some day. On a date known only to God and no human being.
So as followers of Jesus we live our lives between two Advents—like two bookends on a shelf. The first one we celebrate every December. Although, to some extent, we actually celebrate it all year round. It was a life-changing, history-altering, world-shaking event. And it still is!
The second Advent we wait for, anticipate, and look forward to. It could be a hundred years off, it could happen tomorrow. It, too, will be a life-changing and world-shaking event. While we wait for it, we live in thankfulness that he came and in faith that he’ll return. The first Advent happened just as the Old Testament prophets predicted, and the second one will happen too. The first we look back on with joy and thankfulness, the second we look forward to with eager expectation.
Here at First Evangelical Free Church, we really believe this. We celebrate the true story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. It’s what gives all of life meaning.
And we have no doubt that he’s coming back someday—the second Advent. So we try to live our lives accordingly, in ways that please and honor Jesus. If you agree, or if you’re curious and want to know more, please come and visit us during this Advent—and Christmas—season. This link lists all the events we’ve got planned. We’d love to meet you!
Jesus did come to this earth. And he will come again! These are “tidings of comfort and joy!”
About the author
Mike Anderson majored in Bible at the University of Northwestern and has been a student of the Bible his whole adult life. He is newly retired and still learning the ropes. At First Evangelical Free Church he teaches 5th grade Sunday school and co-leads a small group. He enjoys biking, reading, writing, and hiking. Mike and his wife Debbie make their home in Lake Elmo and enjoy having all of their kids and grandkids in the Twin Cities area.