“We stand at the head of the Christian year. I am not sure that there is anything quite like it in the world; this composite of sanctities, this interweaving of story and prayer, of song and color, by which Christ is portrayed and brought before us. It is a solemn pageantry which effects association with him whose life is being traced.”–Miles Lowell Yates
We have entered upon a very special and indeed a very magnificent part of the Church calendar. We have entered into the season of Advent. The season of the Church calendar that we take time to remember our Lord’s coming as a baby and to dwell upon what that means. And Mr. Yates description paints a beautiful portrait of the meaning behind Advent.
Over a year ago I joined a liturgical church community that practices the ancient Church calendar and the seasons therein, so I am still getting myself familiar with the reflections of Christ’s own life that the liturgical calendar presents. But Advent has always been a very special time of the year for me.
Oddly enough I am reminded of Exodus 12 in this Season of Advent. The Passover. I’m sure we all know the story quite well. Yahweh has sent plague after plague upon Egypt, but the Pharaoh would not soften his own heart. So God is going to send the Angel of Death to destroy the first born in all the land. He instructs his people to take the blood of a lamb and put it over their doors and that death will pass right over.
Andrew Peterson sings it like this in his beautiful song, Passover Us:
“But the Lord, He gave to Moses a word for the people. He said their firstborn sons could live to see another day ‘Put the blood of a lamb on the doorway and death will pass right over.’ That night all of the children of Israel prayed,
‘Lord, let your judgment passover us. Lord, let your love hover near. Don’t let your sweet mercy pass over us. Let this blood cover over us here'”
How does Passover have something to do with Advent? Death is a result of the Fall. Even though the first born sons of Israel escaped Death that night they would eventually go on to die. Our sins were more numerous than all the lambs we could slay. That’s the consequence of sin, death. Eternal separation from God because of our guilt and sin.
Our sin was so great that animal sacrifices and the blood of animals would not satisfy the holy wrath of God. His judgment was still needing justification. The Advent is the Great High Priest, God the Father, Himself, placing upon the Holy Altar the Body of a Spotless Lamb, Christ His own Son. He chose His very own son as the Perfect Sacrifice to bear the sins of the world and to remove them.
And how even more poetic that Christ’s blood destroyed death! Death has passed over us. We are no longer held by it’s power. We are no longer held by the power of sin.
And what is extremely poetic is that in Exodus God required the blood of a lamb to be spread on the doorway in order for the first born son to be spared, but in the Advent He sent His Firstborn of All Creation to be that very Spotless Lamb. Christ’s blood has been poured out for us.
The Advent is about God placing upon the Holy Altar His own Son in order that death and sin may be eternally defeated. The Advent is about the very love of God, the fullness of God coming to earth as a man.
Think about that for a moment. How vulnerable God made Himself. He made Himself a man. He submitted Himself to human care and nurturing. He submitted Himself to the feeding of Mary’s breast, the nurture of her precious motherly love, and the care of her heart. God made Himself dependent upon a human being for survival and care and love.
Does that not make a tingle go up your spine and draw a tear to your eye? That the Creator of All would subject Himself to such vulnerability? What a beautiful picture of the Advent of Love.
Love has indeed come. Love’s Advent was fulfilled in the Coming of Christ. The Lamb’s Blood has been put upon the doorways of the world and each of our hearts. Death has been defeated. Sin has been crushed. The Father’s wrath was satisfied.
In this season of Advent be grateful for the coming of Love. Reflect upon the Coming of Christ to be a sacrifice for our atonement. I want to share with you four prayers, one each for the four weeks of Advent. These prayers are found in The Book of Common Prayer. Pray them on Sunday and reflect upon the Advent.
First Sunday of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Second Sunday of Advent
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I wanted to share with you these thoughts on Advent. I hope that you have a great time in remembering this special time of the Church year while having a great expectation of the Second Advent, which is has yet to happen.
I’ll leave you with this quote by Edward Hays: “Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place.”
Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away our sin! Come Lord Jesus, Ancient and Strong, gather us beneath Your wing tonight. Amen.