The scripture verse cited above is clearly one of the best known verses in the New Testament. It's very clear and precise and tells us that Jesus Christ was sent to earth to offer us the gift of eternal life if only we have faith and believe in Him. And it's at the heart of the message of Advent, a message of hope and anticipation as we await the celebration of the Christ Child's birth over two thousand years ago. Many question it, ridicule and make fun of it, saying such an immaculate conception and birth of God and Man in one is impossible, yet we Christian believers know that it is true. And it is our responsibility to strive to live as He asks us to with love in our hearts as we practice our belief in all that we do.
According to the Oxford American dictionary, there are three definitions for the word Advent. The first says it is the coming of Christ. The second, the season (the four Sundays before Christmas) and thirdly, the arrival of an important person, event or development. Notice how the first two tie directly to our Christian belief while the third is secular. Yet even in the secular use, it is clear that the word refers to something or someone very important. Now, I personally like the Oxford American dictionary because it was the first one to become very modern, showing both the old and the new based upon the changes that impact the modern development of the English language. And isn't it interesting that in the more modern definition, while not officially recognizing Jesus in the definition, it is clear that it refers to something very important, we might even say earth changing?
So Advent is all three. It is the season leading up to the actual celebration of the coming of Christ through His virgin birth by Mary, it covers the four Sundays leading up to that event as we build hope and anticipation for the future and it certainly signifies that something very important is about to take place. And the importance of what is celebrated was a most important event as it changed the world.
Prior to the life and death of Jesus, the Jewish law of the Old Testament formed the basis for the rules to live by for the Jews. It was very harsh, directing severe punishments with no offer of forgiveness in a very rough and difficult world. But with the birth of Jesus, love and forgiveness intertwined to give hope for a better future and following His death thirty three years later, Salvation or Eternal Life was offered to those who believed through faith. And what's more, by developing His script for the future of the world as God so aptly did, He left it to us to evaluate for ourselves the realness of Jesus. With our own free will we were granted the opportunity to believe or not.
In prior Bible times, Jews were subject to the wrath of God for the error of their ways as mortals, yet with the coming of Jesus a better way, the perfect way, was offered. The choice was to have faith and believe and have the opportunity to live with Him for eternity or reject him and suffer the consequences of darkness.
Advent offers a period to contemplate what the upcoming birth of Jesus means to us. It is the preparatory phase readying us for the Greatest Story Ever Told. We can each within ourselves decide what we believe, but if we open our hearts and let the Spirit of the Lord take charge of it, we will know and we will believe. Do we know where we stand? Well, I know what I believe and I pray those in doubt will find the same promise and hope that I share. Why? Because He lives and He is our hope and our future.