This time of the Christian year is called Advent from the latin word adventus meaning coming or appearing, specifically, it means the coming or appearing of a notable person or event. At this time of year we relive through our hymns and the scriptures the excitement, the hope, and the expectations of the time and events leading up to the First Advent or coming of Jesus Christ to the world. In this His First Coming he came to us in humiliation or condescension, leaving his exalted state in heaven to become one of us. Philippians chapter 2 tells us that “although He existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The first great event in the unfolding of the First Advent or coming of Jesus to the earth was the birth of John the Baptist, six months before the birth of Jesus, a great miracle and supernatural event in its own right, as Elizabeth, his mother, was far beyond natural child bearing years. Elizabeth was filled with expectancy for the birth of her first child. With the birth of John the Baptist and his preaching in the wilderness of Judea preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah to the world, the Jewish world was expectant—expectant with the hope of their soon deliverance. And someone else was expectant. A young virtuous virgin.
In his book, The Healing, G. Campbell Morgan writes, “Extremes have characterized the treatment which the mother of our Lord has received at the hands of the Christian Church. On the one hand she has been worshipped, and on the other, largely neglected. In the rebound of Protestantism from Mariolotry we have been terribly in danger of relegating the Virgin Mother to a position far inferior to that which she really holds in the counsel and purpose and power of God, and in the work of God in human history and human life.”
“The Virgin Mother takes her place in the focal point of all the histories. Through no choice, no conceit or forwardness of her own, but by the grace of God and by an inherent fitness she becomes a connecting link between earth and heaven.”
Music Link: Mary Did You Know by Clay Aiken https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_srtfgf2gqQ
The fact that Jesus was born to a young, virtuous virgin maiden, begins the story of the First Advent of Christ in just the right way, appropriate to Jesus’ whole life and calling and Mary’s life and calling. His birth and life was not only supernatural but very human. Mary was a humble and obedient young woman who accepted without equivocation the calling that God placed on her life through the words of His messenger. And so began what for her would be an arduous journey (which she without a doubt did not see in advance.) (As I go through this narrative, perhaps you will see parallels with your own life.)
Mary was quite different from any other woman who ever lived. She had a unique and very high calling. She was the fullfilment of the prophesy long ago in Genesis. She was the woman whose seed, Jesus, would crush the head of Satan. She would not only receive the indwelling Christ and the Holy Spirit, as all believers do, but she actually, physically held within her womb the infant Son of God conceived of her very own seed. Imagine how protective she must have been as she carried Him those nine months within her and then made the journey to Bethlehem where she would give birth to Him with no one to help her but Joseph. The condescension of Jesus begins when He is born in a stable and wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger. Imagine the great joy and excitement Mary must have felt at the appearance of the shepherds who came to worship her baby, the fear she must have felt when she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to save their baby’s life, and the wonder of the wise men—kings bringing expensive gifts of royalty to her young child. Imagine the faith she had and how her faith must have grown as she watched the hand of God at work in her firstborn.
I love the way the video portrays the life of Jesus and Mary and Joseph. The happiness and rejoicing Mary and Joseph felt as they raised their very special boy. The questionings of imperfect understanding Mary felt when Simon, the prophet, told her when she took Jesus at eight days old to the temple that a sword would pierce her soul. Imagine the pangs of rejection she may have felt when she found Him at twelve preaching in the synagogue, and He told her that He must be about His Father’s work. At that time Mary must have realized that she had to already begin to “cut the apron strings” and allow Him to follow the path that God had for Him, which was certainly not the path that she would have chosen for Him.
She must have been so proud of Him to see all the good He did, the miracles He worked, the love He had for people, the tireless wandering around Palestine preaching and teaching wonderful things about the Kingdom of God and about Himself. She no doubt feared for Him when she began to see His rejection by the people and the ceaseless ridicule and entrapment by the Pharisees. On one occasion they compared themselves to Jesus. Feeling morally superior, they said, “We were not born of fornication were we?” An accusation that probably followed Mary and Jesus all their lives.
I love the way the video jumps back and forth from the baby, the child and the adult Jesus back to the child and the baby and then the adult again. A few years ago, my son went through a very devastating time. All I could do was pray, encourage him and watch him suffer. For God was at work in His life. He was thirty-six years old at the time but as I watched with love, he was my sweet baby. He was my toddler, my little nine year old boy, my teenager, my college student, and my grown son. His whole life and my love for him flashed before me as one moment in time. Imagine how Mary felt when she witnessed the trial of her Son, His extreme cruel treatment and finally His nailing to the cross. As she watched Him hanging on the cross, I believe she saw her baby, her little boy who brought her such joy, her adolescent son, teaching in the temple, and her grown son, who had done no wrong in His life,hanging on the cross dying,. How tender her heart must have been while, as He hung dying, He remembered to make arrangements for her care during her earthly life. Perhaps she held Him in her arms when they took Him down from the cross. And in that moment His whole life flashed before her again from infancy to adulthood—all the things she had held in her heart and pondered as she watched Him grow to maturity. The first advent of Jesus is a fully human story as well as a supernatural one. It did not end with the tragedy of the cross but in triumphant victory when God raised Jesus from the dead and He ascended on high to the throne of David.
And the hope and expectancy does not end there. As you participate in all the joy, excitement and expectation of the Christmas season, are you filled with expectancy in a special way? Perhaps you are filled with the expectancy of long awaited answer to prayer? Or the expectancy of perhaps seeing a loved one come to Jesus? Or perhaps it will trigger in you a yearning for the Second Coming of Christ when He will wipe every tear from our eyes and all sorrow will cease for there will be no more death. All creation will be set free from its bondage and “The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will rise again!” Do you have a yearning to see Him, who died for you, face to face? We cannot think of the first advent of Christ into the world without thinking of the Second for they are not two unrelated separate events, but rather are one continuous movement of the redemptive work of God in human history.
Music Link: The Yearning by Craig Courtney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPW3cVJ12Yw