Advent gives us the opportunity to reflect on the good news of great joy we celebrate on Christmas.
Adventus (from which we get Advent) means “coming.” It’s the eager anticipation for the arrival of something – or Someone. We often read the Christmas story as Jesus showing up after the Old Testament to kick off the New Testament. But the Christmas story doesn’t begin in the New Testament with the Gospels, or even with the prophets who spoke of a coming Savior.
The Christmas story begins in Genesis.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve rebelled and sinned against God because of the serpent’s deception. They didn’t trust the goodness of God and disobeyed Him, creating a breach between mankind and the Lord. Instead of striking them dead on the spot, God curses the serpent and makes this promise to the enemy:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
He will crush your head,
and you will strike His heel.”
– Genesis 3:15, NIV
Because of this promise, Adam and Eve knew a Child was coming. This Child, wounded by the enemy, would seem to be defeated. But this promised offspring would crush the old serpent’s head and restore what had been lost in the Garden. Where Adam had failed his earthly bride by a tree, One would come who would save His eternal bride on a tree. Where Adam had disobeyed God, One would come who would obey God perfectly.
And so they waited, and looked forward to this Child who would come.
As mankind grew and spread across the earth, God came to a man named Abraham and called him to step out in faith. God called Abraham to leave his country, his people group, and his family, to go to an unknown land. God promised Abraham:
“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
– Genesis 12:2-3, ESV
The problem was that Abraham was old. As in 75 years old. And yet, God gave him a son in his impossibly old age as a sign that our circumstances are never greater than our God. The promise was that in Abraham, all the families of the earth would be blessed. The offspring promised to our first parents would be that blessing.
And then God did something that seems like too much: God asked Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. Abraham gathered his sacrificing gear together and trekked with his son to the mountain. When Isaac observed that everything was there except the animal to be sacrificed, Abraham displayed his trust in the promise and faithfulness of God:
“Abraham said, ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ So they went both of them together. “
– Genesis 22:8, ESV
God did provide an animal, a ram, to take the place of Isaac on the altar. But a day was coming when God would indeed provide for Himself a Lamb as a sacrifice. Where a ram was offered as Isaac’s substitute, a Lamb would be offered as another substitute. Where Abraham’s son was not sacrificed, a Son would be sacrificed as a display of the Father’s love.
And so they waited, and looked forward to this Lamb who would come.
Within several generations, God’s people found themselves in slavery in a foreign land. God raised up Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, and to wander in the wilderness for 40 years on their way to the promised land. And yet, even though God had shown himself in great power and through mighty acts and faithful displays of love, they still ran after other gods. Their hearts weren’t changed; Israel was still under the bondage of sin, shame, and death. Moses was a great leader, but he couldn’t cause his people to love and obey God wholeheartedly because it is never man who changes hearts. Only God does that, and He made a promise through Moses:
“The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
– Deuteronomy 30:6, ESV
In hope, they waited for this promised Deliverer who would deliver His people from the oppressive enemy and the shackles of sin, shame, and death. The One who would circumcise their hearts so that they could truly love the Lord and obey Him. Where Moses delivered them from physical slavery, One was coming who would deliver them from spiritual slavery. Where Moses introduced the Law, One was coming who would fulfill the Law completely. Where Moses wasn’t able to fully lead his people into the promised land because of his disobedience, there was One coming who, through obedience, would be able to bring His people into the great promise.
And so they waited, and looked forward to this Savior who would come.
In the promised land, the Lord raised another leader. David was the shepherd-boy-turned-warrior who famously felled the giant Goliath with a sling and stone. Described as “a man after God’s own heart,” he seemed like a great deliverer and God anointed him king over Israel. But as great of a king as he was, David was still a man beset with sin, and his household was wrought with brokenness. He wasn’t the promised One, but there was a promise made to him:
“When your [David] days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish His kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.”
– 2 Samuel 7:12-13, ESV
So David and Israel knew that the promised offspring was coming, a King who would have an everlasting kingdom. Isaiah would prophecy:
“Of the greatness of His government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”
– Isaiah 9:7, ESV
Where David was unfaithful to his bride, One was coming who would be perfectly faithful and protect His Bride. Where David would die and his kingdom become divided, One was coming who would be raised from the dead and have a Kingdom that would never end.
And so they waited, and looked forward to this King who would come.
This is what the world was waiting for: a Child, a Lamb, a Savior, a King. The ancient, promised Messiah they longed to see.
And then between the last pages of the Old Testament and the first page of our New Testament, God was silent for 400 years. It seemed as if maybe God had abandoned them. Maybe He had given up on His rebellious people.
Into this silence broke a baby’s cry one Bethlehem night. Into this longing, a longing that began back in Genesis, God himself stepped into creation as the promised Messiah, the promised Immanuel: God with us.
This promised Messiah, Jesus, lived a perfect life, died a sinner’s death, and was raised back to life. This Jesus, who reconciled us to God, promised that He would one day return.
Advent means arrival. In light of His first coming, we eagerly wait for and anticipate His second coming, when He will restore all things. Come, Lord Jesus!
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