It is a word that means “arrival,” and it is the name that has long been given to the four weeks leading up to Christmas. This four-week season is a time for Christians to remember how the people of Israel waited and longed for God to send them the long-promised Messiah, and it culminates with the arrival of that Messiah, Jesus, as a baby in Bethlehem all those long years ago.
But Advent is not just about celebrating what God did in the past. It is about celebrating and anticipating what He will do in the future. Like Israel, we too are waiting for Jesus the Messiah to arrive, but for a second time, an arrival that will result in the final defeat of death, a new earth, and our dwelling with Jesus in resurrected bodies.
Advent, then, is looking backward so that we may look forward. In Advent, we remind ourselves that just as God kept His promise to send Jesus over two thousand years ago, so He will keep His promise to send Jesus again. Our brand new study, Good News, Great Joy, is designed to help you appreciate the Advent season by examining how Jesus fulfills the offices of Prophet, Priest, King, and Messiah.
Sneak Peak of Our New Advent Study
Below is an entry from Good News, Great Joy:
Who Is the Messiah?
Read 1 Samuel 10:1, 1 Samuel 16:13, Luke 2:8–20
Winds rustle the grasses of the countryside in Israel. The night is quiet and still—much like every other night. Stars shine above while a group of shepherds faithfully tend to their flock. Little do they know, this night is not normal. This night will change the trajectory of not only their lives but of all human history. A bright light pierces the darkness, and the shepherds cower in fear. An angel of the Lord stands before them, sharing good news of great joy. The long-awaited Messiah has finally been born! Immediately, these shepherds leave their flocks on this hillside and venture toward Bethlehem, abandoning everything to lay eyes on this baby boy (Luke 2:8–20).
Why the haste? Why were these shepherds so desperate to meet this child?
Marked by oppression, poor leadership, and hearts prone to wandering, God’s chosen people longed for a breath under wave after wave of hardship. This breath—this hope—is the Messiah. From moments after the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, God promised a Savior to finally end sin’s grip on the world (Genesis 3:15). He promised a Messiah who would end oppression and break the chains of slavery for Israel. This Messiah would conquer enemies in God’s name and eventually restore Israel to its promised glory. God’s children would finally claim victory.
The hope of the Messiah passed down from generation to generation. Israel saw the kings of neighboring nations and begged God for one of their own. God granted their wish and chose Saul, handsome and a head taller than most, to be king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 10:1, Samuel, a faithful priest of the time, anointed and commissioned Saul, declaring him ruler of God’s people.
In ancient Israel, priests and kings were anointed with olive oil to symbolize being chosen by God. These men were set apart for God’s good works, responsible for guiding and leading Israel in obedience to the Lord. In fact, Messiah means “anointed one” or “chosen one.” And so, with each anointing, Israel wondered, “Is this our Messiah?”
Sadly, Saul failed to obey God. The Lord removed His Spirit from Saul and instead chose David to reign over His people. We see David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16:13. Scripture tells us that God’s Spirit came powerfully on David and even calls David a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). In many ways, David fit the description of the Messiah. He defeated surrounding nations in God’s name. Wealth and prosperity flowed into Israel. God’s nation was feared by surrounding peoples. David sought the Lord’s guidance in decisions. But, though David loved God, he was a sinner, just like us. David’s leadership spiraled out of control when he slept with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah, killed to cover up his mistake (2 Samuel 11). Though David is regarded as one of Israel’s best kings, he was a mere shadow of the true and faithful King to come. Israel again was left waiting for their Messiah.
King after king was anointed to rule over Israel in the coming years. With each new king, Israel asked, “Is this our Messiah?” None of these kings proved worthy of the title. In the waiting, Israel often turned their heads away from God and toward gods of surrounding nations, hoping to somehow dig themselves out of oppression by their own strength. Even in the midst of Israel’s unfaithfulness, God never removed His promise for future redemption. Our gracious Father still kept His plan intact, working in even the most despairing circumstances for Israel’s good and His glory.
The Messiah meant great hope and great joy for Israel, so much so that on the night of His birth, the shepherds ran through fields just to be in His presence. Scripture does not tell us that the shepherds took time to secure provision for their sheep or update their families on their whereabouts. Instead, they moved in haste to see hope fulfilled. Scripture tells us that these shepherds left the Messiah’s presence glorifying and praising God, sharing the good news with anyone they met. The deep breath of redemption finally came to Israel.
As we look forward to Christmas Day, we can find a deeper reverence for this baby in a manger who we celebrate. We are reminded of the cries of God’s children and the countless prayers lifted in longing—all dreaming of the day their Messiah would arrive. Second Corinthians 1:20 reads, “For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in him. Therefore, through him we also say ‘Amen’ to the glory of God.” At the birth of Christ, the Scriptures began to illuminate. God’s promises were proven true. Years of waiting and wondering were now tenderly answered by the coos of a newborn boy. Though hope was thought to be lost, now, it is found. The Messiah has come.
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Additional resources for celebrating Advent: