The Meaning of Advent
Advent is a Latin word that means “coming.” There are two Advents in Scripture. The first Advent was the incarnation of Christ, and the second Advent refers to the future event of Christ’s return to defeat Satan forever and restore God’s kingdom.
As Christians, we base our entire lives upon the first Advent. We believe that God’s Son became flesh and dwelt among us, lived a sinless life, and died a death we deserved in order to ransom us from the rule of rebellion. We also root our hope in the second Advent of Jesus as we wait eagerly in confidence for the day he comes again for his people to reign and rule forever (Romans 8:19, 8:23; Titus 2:13).
During the month of December, Christ-followers come together to remember the angst of the Israelites in the Old Testament as they waited for the Messiah to come. We celebrate his coming and anticipate his coming again. Advent became a practice in the Church around the late fourth century and has continued to this day to be a yearly rhythm of pausing, pressing in, and praising God for his faithfulness revealed through the coming of Jesus. Later, during the Middle Ages, the four Sundays in the month of December became the standard duration of Advent.
The Response to Seeing your Savior
Christmas is about celebrating the arrival of God’s promised Messiah to save his people. But here’s the kicker: Jesus didn’t come in the manner the Israelites expected. They expected a king coming in pomp and splendor, not a baby born of a virgin and laid in a manger. And yet, Christ came right on time in just the way God planned for the promised Messiah to appear (Galatians 4:4).
After the first Advent (Christ’s birth) Luke records that Jesus’ mother, Mary, “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Mary savored her Son, Jesus, the Savior of the world. She paused to preserve every moment within her mind as unfading memories. She took note of all that God had done, how he made the impossible possible, how he had done great things in her midst, and she adored him with all she had.
The Shepherds Praised the Lamb
When the shepherds returned after seeing the Savior with their own eyes, they glorified and praised God (Luke 2:20)! The shepherds came to adore Jesus. The eyes of their heart saw the Savior, and the only right response was to savor him, to worship him, to give him their everything. John Piper writes,
“Savoring Jesus Christ is the response to this second kind of seeing. When you see something as true and beautiful and valuable, you savor it. That is, you treasure it. You cherish it and admire and prize it. Spiritual seeing and spiritual savoring are so closely connected that it would be fair to say: If you don’t savor Christ, you haven’t seen Christ for who he is.”
Savoring the Savior begins with seeing Christ in his fullness, beholding his beauty, and treasuring his endless worth. Christ came as the fulfillment of God’s promise to defeat the works of the devil and make a way for us to have a right relationship with God. And this is no small thing! The sacrifice of Christ on the cross should cause tears to well up in your eyes and joy to overflow from your heart. And if the tears do not flow, my prayer is that during this Advent season, you’d see Christ afresh and savor him with your entire heart, soul, mind and strength.
Seeing Beyond Our Physical Limitations
Poet and hymn writer Fanny Crosby became blind at just two months of age when a doctor mistreated an infection she had. Soon after, her father died and her mother was forced to find work, leaving Fanny to be raised by her grandmother. However, despite the hardships she faced as a young girl, her love for poetry and stringing together words like pearls become quickly evident. Throughout her life, Fanny wrote over 9,000 hymns, including the beloved hymn Take the World but Give Me Jesus. The last stanza of this hymn reads,
Take the world, but give me Jesus.
In his cross my trust shall be,
Till, with clearer, brighter vision,
Face to face my Lord I see.
Like Mary and like the shepherds who saw Jesus, Fanny also saw Christ in his fullness. Though her physical eyes could not see, the eyes of her heart saw Christ clearly and longed to see his face as the first she would ever behold once she entered her eternal home in heaven. Fanny savored her Savior, Jesus, and we still sing her hymns today that reflect such adoration of him. Throughout the rest of this Advent season, let’s savor our Savior and adore him together until one day “with clearer, brighter vision face to face my Lord I see.”
*This article is an adapted excerpt from this year’s WWW Advent study, Savor the Savior: 31 Days of Adoration.