Today marks the first day of Advent, which for us as Christians is the beginning of our new year. So before I continue, allow me to say, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!"
In teaching on Advent last year, both to my high school students and an adult class at church, I refreshed my memory on a few important things about this season:
- The circle of the wreath is to remind us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end?
- The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness and eternal life?
- The candles are used to symbolize the light of God coming through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.
This is rich stuff!
Advent is not only a reminder of how God-followers waited for Messiah 2,000 years ago; Advent guides us in our own wandering today as we wait for that dear Messiah to come again for us. In other words, it’s not just about the first coming; it’s about his Second Coming too. Advent is intended to be practice for an entire life of “Advent faith,” where we wait daily with hope and expectation.
This verse in my reading of 2Peter 1 this morning gave me great encouragement as I embark on a new year of that life of waiting:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (verses 3-4)
A commentary sums it up perfectly:
In a real sense, to grow in grace is simply to take advantage of what God has already done for us. Peter declares that God, in divine power, has bestowed upon us all the resources we need to reflect his own glory and excellence (1:3), to escape from the impact of a corrupt world, and to participate in God's divine nature (1:4). These resources assume the form of promise, indeed very precious promises (1:4). God promises through his divine power all the resources needed for a growing and deepening Christian life.
It is a remarkable privilege that we get to, somehow, participate in the divine nature through his grace. And as we pursue him, we will grow in "increasing measure" (vs. 8) in becoming more like him. Rather than be mired in my same cyclical, destructive patterns, we have the opportunity to be truly transformed. THIS is good news indeed.
Given that I have followed Christ for many years, I run the risk of just going through Advent and Christmas with a "been there, done that" attitude. Instead, let's push each to embrace the promises offered to us, and to take advantage of the resources at our disposal. I want to remember every day -- I have everything I need. Praise Him.