This morning it occurs to me that before Jesus’s birth, the Israelites were living in a perpetual season or state of Advent. Why? Because they had been promised a Messiah, a Deliverer, a Redeemer, someone who would come and rescue them from their enemies and oppressors. They did not know when God would send this Savior to them, so they should have been in a constant state of readiness to receive God’s gift to them whenever He should arrive. But as we read the story of Jesus’s birth and life, it is clear that people were not prepared to receive God’s promised gift of the Messiah. We read this about Jesus in John 1:10-11,
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”
Jesus did not receive the warm welcome one would expect a long-awaited Conqueror to receive. There was no pomp, no circumstance, no fanfare – well, no fanfare on earth – although the angels, the stars, all of heaven rejoiced loudly at Jesus’s birth (which the shepherds witnessed). But here on earth, people were not prepared for Jesus’s arrival. They were not watching and waiting for God’s Promised One. So Jesus and His parents ended up in a stable because there was no room for them in any of the people’s homes. The Israelites had lived in a permanent season of Advent and still missed the big event.
Oh, there were a few exceptions. Two, to be exact. Simeon and Anna did not miss the arrival of God’s life-saving, life giving gift of His Son. What made them different? Well, Simeon is described in this way,
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2:25-26)
And we read this about Anna,
“There was also a prophetess, Anna, . . . She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” (Luke 2:36-37)
What do I know about these two individuals from these descriptions? Simeon and Anna were actively watching, waiting and worshiping while they waited for Jesus to arrive. They hadn’t given up hope. They hadn’t stopped believing in God’s promise to send a Savior to them and to the world. Even after four hundred years of silence, they were eagerly expecting God’s miracle, so they spent their time preparing to receive the miracle when He came. Every day was Advent for Simeon and for Anna. They were watchful. They were ready. They received the baby Jesus with joy.
“Simeon took Him (Jesus) in his arms and praised God, saying: . . . ‘my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people,’ ” (Luke 2:28-31) and Anna’s response?
“Coming up to them (Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus) at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)
Seems like the appropriate response to this miraculous gift is praise, thanksgiving and rejoicing to God, the Giver of the gift of Advent, which is Jesus.
Interestingly enough, we, too are living in a time in which every day is a day in the season of Advent. We are living in inter-Adventmental times. (I know, I just made up that term – but it fits) We are living after the first Advent, Jesus’s birth as a baby into this world, but before the second Advent, which is Jesus’s promised return to earth to set everything right and establish His never-ending kingdom. I read Jesus’s words in Revelation 22:12,
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
I read in Mark 13:26-27 this –
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”
Jesus’s return – something to look forward to for sure. But in the meantime, I need not be idle. Advent is filled with the activity of preparation for my Redeemer’s return. I need to prepare my heart –
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.” (Psalm 51:10 & 7-9)
Yes, I need to let God clean me up. I need to let God do His transforming work in me, making me ready to receive Him when He returns. I will take God up on the offer He made to me in Ezekiel 36:26 when He said –
“I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
A heart of stone can’t receive God’s gift of Jesus, but a heart of flesh, tender and open, can. Ironically, I need God’s help to prepare for His return. I can’t clean myself up, but my Heavenly Father can help me prepare a way and a place for Him to enter in and to make His home with me. That is the goal of Advent – to be ready and able to receive Him each and every day of my life. After all, Jesus calls to me and to you, dear readers –
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Advent opens the door in anticipation of Jesus’s arrival –
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Psalm 24:7)
sincerely, Grace Day