The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. So Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the “coming of Messiah”.
Initially the focus was on the return of the Messiah or the second coming, but over time it looked to His first coming as well. But the church also emphasized the coming of Jesus to a person through faith.
I would like us to consider those three perspectives: 1) the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, 2) the reception of Messiah in the heart of the believer, and 3) the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Advent is a powerful reminder of what was, What is and what is still to come. The tradition of Advent dates back to the Catholic or universal Church.
After the protestant reformation, when many left the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches and joined in the protestant reformation, the beloved tradition of advent was kept and continues to be practiced every year.
My assignment this evening is to bring a Jewish perspective of advent. Israel’s great hope was and still is, at least among the Orthodox Jewish community, the coming of the Messiah.
1. The Birth of the Messiah
In Matthew 2:1-6 we see revealed there the story of the wise men who come to Herod to inquire where they might find the Messiah.
We all know this as a key feature of the Christmas/Advent story:
Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”
They cited the prophecy of Micah 5:2. These Jewish leaders and scholars knew that the prophets had prophesied where the Messiah would be born.
So, the first aspect of Advent has to do with the Promise that God would send a Messiah who would deliver His people. This great hope was articulated to Moses by the Lord in Deut. 18:15:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
You may remember that when the Jewish people went out to John the Baptist in the wilderness, they asked him if he was the Messiah or Elijah, or the “prophet”. With each title, he responded no.
“The prophet” they were referring to came from that prophecy God gave Moses in Deut 18:18 “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”
Since Moses was the great deliverer of the Jewish people from their bondage and tyrannical rule of Pharaoh, one of the beliefs was that the prophet/Messiah would be like Moses.
Israel saw themselves in a position similar to Egyptian bondage under the idolatrous and cruel rule of Rome. They believed that the Messiah would deliver Israel from the yoke and tyranny of Rome.
Israel was looking for a political and military Messiah who would deliver as Moses did overthrowing their oppressor and enemy, Rome.
The prophet Zechariah gave them this hope:
Zech 14:2-3 “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured … Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.
They were looking for a lion of a leader not a lamb. One who would lead Israel in throwing off the yoke of Rome. This is why two of the disciples were known as zealots, who prior to being disciples were involved in plots to overthrow Roman rule.
And so, when Jesus came in humility calling men to repentance rather that rising up against Rome He was rejected. When He challenged the authority of the priests and pharisees they joined in getting rid of him.
You may remember that there was a time when Israel wanted a King like the rest of the nations.
We read about it in 1 Samuel 8:4-7: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”
But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.
Israel was looking for a King to lead them into battle over their enemies and to bring them peace and prosperity. But they neglected to realize that God already was their King and that He had the nation in His hands.
Sometimes we Christians act like Israel did. We too want an earthly king to rule over our land. But we who have come to faith in Yeshua believe that He is the Promised Messiah and King and even now rules over His people and the nations.
So the first aspect of advent is recognizing that the humble and lowly Yeshua Is the one prophesied to bring redemption to the world, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.
He came as the prophets foretold, born in Bethlehem and came not as the lion of the tribe of Judah but as the Lamb of God as the prophet Isaiah foretold: Is 53:6-7
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
2. The second aspect of Advent is the receiving of Yeshua in our hearts, minds, and souls. It is not enough to believe He was born according to the Scripture or intellectually accept Yeshua.
To be redeemed means to be purchased. Redemption means that our lives are no longer our own. To be redeemed means that we accept that essential truth. When a person trusts that Yeshua died for their sin they acknowledge that He is now Lord of their life.
Life from the dead only begins when we understand and abide in that truth. Yeshua said in Mat. 16:25 “he who loses his life finds it but he who keeps his life loses it” Losing our life means letting God control it.
Paul tells us in Rom. 6:5-6 “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin”
The message of advent is to receive Yeshua the Messiah as King and Lord of your life. Paul describes himself as a bondservant or bondslave. Many followers of Yeshua fail to understand this term because they are not familiar with the concept from the Old Covenant.
Initially The only scripture the early church had was the Old Covenant. When Paul wrote “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” He was referring to the Old Covenant.
The definition of a bondslave comes from Torah in Exodus 21. It describes a Jewish man who because of debt became a slave of the person he was indebted to.
However torah specified that all such slaves were to be released in the Sabbath or 7th year. A bondslave differed from such a slave in that when the year of release came the bondslave gave himself permanently to his master.
Ex. 21:5 “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”
The chief characteristic which motivated this choice was his love of the master and the family that came to him in his bondage. He believed that His master would take better care of him and his family than he could on his own.
Perhaps in his freedom he would become indebted once again and who knew whom he might become enslaved to after he left. But here he knew that this was a good master who was good to him and his family.
So he surrendered his life to his master trusting that be his slave for the rest of his life was greater than serving himself.
This is exactly what happened to us when we came to faith. We were in debt and bondage because of our sin and Yeshua paid our debt and set us free. But in paying that debt we were purchased by Him.
Some of us however did not understand that and soon were going our own way, running our own lives. We strayed from serving our master and found ourselves ensnared and in debt because of our sin once again.
But the real joy of Christmas can be ours if we will become like Paul bondslaves of the Lord. Willing slaves of our master. His will for our lives becomes our sole desire and in exchange we find abundant life.
We learn to die to self and live for our Master Yeshua. The things of this world dim and the king and His Kingdom become our focus and delight.
When we learn His will as revealed in His Word we will experience the abundant life that God has for each of us.
As Ps 37:4-5 tells us:
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
3. Finally, a third essential aspect of Advent is the Return of the Messiah.
One of the great reasons for us to be students of prophecy are the multitude of promises regarding the return of the Messiah. In fact this truth is a motivation for living a godly life as John reminds us
1 Jn 3:2-3 “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
If you are a child of God, you are called to be ready for the anytime return of the Lord. Our Messiah told us to be ready specifically in Luke 12:35-40.
Jesus uses four word pictures in the Luke 12 passage to call his disciples to readiness. First, he says Be ready for His return by being “dressed in readiness” literally, “let your loins be girded.”
This was the same expression Moses used on the very first Passover when the Lord brought Israel out of bondage. They were to eat the meal that night with their loins girded and their staff in hand.
The verb used here indicates a state of perpetual readiness for action.
The second figure, “keep your lamps alight,” If you were expecting a midnight visitor, you would keep an oil light burning so that when he knocked on the door, you could see to let him in. The idea is, be ready for the Master’s coming.
The third picture is of servants who are awaiting their master’s return from a wedding feast. Wedding feasts could last for days, often for a week. The servants would need to be ready when they heard their master arrive to open the door and serve him.
This is the idea of the parable of the 10 virgins in Matt. 25. 5 were ready and 5 were not. Those not ready were locked out.
The fourth picture is of a thief breaking into a house in the middle of the night. If the homeowner had known when the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. He would have been ready and waiting.
Then Jesus states the application of all four figures: “You, too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (12:40).
This is the second coming of the Messiah, and one of the essential reasons for the observance of advent. Scripture describes that he will first come for His bride as Paul describes in 1 Thess. 4:15-17:
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Advent then is a reminder for His bride the church to be ready for His anytime coming. We are to be dressed in readiness, being clothed with garments of our salvation Messiah, who is our righteousness.
To have our lamps filled with oil and lit, an allusion to being filled with Spirit of God and living, walking and abiding in the Light of the Lord.
To be looking and ready for our Master’s return being sure that when He does we are doing the King’s business.
To be alert, watchful as though we were guarding our lives, our families, and all that has been entrusted to us from.
If you’re expecting the King of kings, how should your life look? Would you have been comfortable if He came suddenly during your activities this past week?
Are there books or magazines or videos that you need to get rid of before He comes to your home? Do your eyes view things that you would be ashamed of if the Lord suddenly came to your home.
Jesus says that we should be ready immediately to open the door to him when he comes and knocks (12:36). We shouldn’t have to yell, “Just a minute,” while we shut off the TV and hide a bunch of embarrassing stuff in our closets.
Advent is a time to remember. A time to remember that as the prophets foretold the promised Messiah Israel and the Nations has come.
A time to remember that we need to receive Him as our King and Lord and that we have been purchased by Him. His will must be our will He is our Master and if we will serve Him as such He will love and care for us through all the trials of our lives.
And it is a time to remember that the King is coming soon first in the clouds for His bride to bring them safely to the place He has prepared for them.
This season of advent I urge you to believe in the Messiah who lived and died to redeem and save you. Welcome him into your heart and allow Him to rule your life. You will never regret it.
And finally, be ready for His return which will occur at any time. Let’s live our lives so that we will not be ashamed at His coming.