Living in the Tension of Advent

December 1, 2019  - By Gretchen Saffles

Well-Watered Women-Blog-Living in the Tension of Advent

In order to fully immerse ourselves in this season of Advent, we have to start at the very beginning and ask one simple question: Why? 

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

Why do we partake in Advent? I grew up in a Christian home with a lineage of pastors and a father who was also a pastor for the first part of my life. We celebrated Christmas each year and treasured Christ through this holiday, but we did not walk through the traditional practice of “Advent.”

The terminology and concept were new to me as a young adult, and I quickly learned to embrace the tradition of slowing down to sit in the tension of the season. Advent is about feeling the weight and need for Christ to have been born in human flesh to save us from our sins. It’s about slowing down to savor His goodness amidst a world of things and messages that vie for our attention. Advent is about treasuring Jesus above all other things. 

Understanding the Weight

However, the anticipation that Advent holds can only be felt through understanding the magnificent display of God’s love in sending Christ, his Son, to be born as a human being.1 Jesus was not just a man; He was fully God. He was not just like us; He was also the Creator of all things who humbled himself to become like us, His creation (Philippians 2:5–8).

The birth, life, and death of Jesus didn’t just happen haphazardly; these events were the culmination of human history. History is not simply about facts and what has been—it is HIS story. This story began thousands of years ago, yet we still feel the repercussions of the birth of Jesus Christ today. 

Dwelling in the Wait

Throughout Scripture, God’s people felt seasons of “advent” as they lived in constant tension—a tension that our souls feel even now. After the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, God initiated the work of redemption to draw His people back to His heart. The people waited for a Savior, a Redeemer, a coming King to rescue them from their misery.

For thousands of years they followed God’s lead like sheep following a shepherd. Throughout those years of waiting and wandering, God was working in mighty ways behind the scenes. He is the most brilliant Author, and the entire Bible contains themes connecting the story’s one purpose—the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. One central theme woven like a binding cord throughout all of Scripture is the significance of the lamb, the shedding of blood for atonement, and Christ as the fulfillment of these two needs for redemption.

Anticipation and Advent

The Old Testament is laden with the anticipation of Advent—of expectation, of waiting, of the coming hope for a Rescuer. All of this leads to the pinnacle of anticipation when God sent His Son, Jesus, to be born and live as Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” However, this is not what the people were expecting.

They were not anticipating the King of kings to be born in a lowly manger of two parents with no social standing. They were not looking for a King who would have “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2b). God flipped their expectations upside-down and showed them a better way, a way opposite of this earth’s. He did it through sending Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God.

Finding God in the Waiting

And even now, during the season of Advent, we should expect God to flip the script and show us that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8–9). He uses the lowly and meek to bring glory to His great name. He is the God who can take what is worthless in this world and cause us to wonder at His ability to redeem and restore. In a sense, He is the God of making what is forward backward, and what is backward forward.

Just like Jesus’ birth was not what the Israelites were expecting or looking for, know that God will work in ways you are not expecting as well. The amazing thing is, God had revealed how He would send His Son, like a sacrificial lamb, all throughout the Old Testament. Mankind, however, did not have eyes to see or ears that could hear or fully understand. We now have the big picture—the whole story of Scripture—and we can trace His work, knowing His ways, plans, and promises. 

Expect Big Things this Advent

Since Advent is a season of anticipation, a time when God turns our expectations upside-down, expect God to do a great renovation in your heart, but also expect it to be different than you thought it would be. Look for Him in the mundane, in the things that seem to be “going wrong,” and in the everyday occurrences of life.

Ask Him to open your eyes as you read Scripture and ponder: Why did Jesus come? Why is His birth worth setting aside a whole day—a whole season—to celebrate? Why is He worth spending our whole lives making Him known? Understanding why Christ is worth celebrating will make the celebrations all the more meaningful.

* This is an excerpt from this year’s Well-Watered Women Advent study, Behold the Lamb, written by Gretchen Saffles. The study book is sold out, but we hope you have enjoyed this peek into its contents and we pray you will behold the Lamb of God this Christmas season! For further discussion, find us on Instagram and join the Facebook Community Group.

1: Paraphrased from the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

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