Summary: Advent is meant to be a time of expectation, a time of looking forward to God doing a new thing. It’s not meant to be a time of passively waiting for Christ’s return, it is a time of actively working toward the return of Jesus
Today is the first day of the year on the Christian calendar, which always starts with the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means “the coming” and Christians have been celebrating Advent since the 4th century. Advent is about looking forward to and working for the return of Jesus as Lord. Advent is more about the second coming than it is the first coming or birth of Jesus. But unfortunately, what the church has done today is to make Advent more about the birth of Jesus rather than his second coming. Advent is meant to be a time of expectation, a time of looking forward to God doing a new thing. It’s not meant to be a time of passively waiting for Christ’s return, it is a time of actively working toward the return of Jesus when he will set all things right and will restore all of creation to its intended order.
What you see on the screen is the place believed to be Mary’s home in the town of Nazareth. What we know is that Christians have been worshipping here since the 300’s because they claimed it was Mary’s home where Gabriel made the announcement to Mary about the birth of Jesus. This is in Nazareth. Nazareth was significant, not because it was an important city but because it was a town so small and of such little significance that no one thought the announcement of the Messiah would come to the town or even one of its inhabitants. And yet Nazareth was a place where its inhabitants were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah and were constantly preparing for His arrival. Joseph and Mary’s families and the other descendents of the line of David had left Bethlehem and Judea to move to Nazareth to await the coming Messiah. The region of Judea had become filled with corruption and violence, as well as Roman influence and fear of Herod and his growing erratic and violent behavior. Many of these who moved were part of the priesthood who would serve for short periods of time in the temple each year. Families like those of Mary and Joseph who were dedicated to living the lifestyle God withdrew from the region of Judea to remote villages in Galilee like Nazareth. There, they were insulated from the corrupt Roman culture that had permeated even the walls of the Temple. So they came to Nazareth to wait and to be on the lookout for the arrival of the Messiah who would restore rightful leadership in the land. This was also a personal journey, because it was from the line of David, from their own family lineage, that the Messiah would rise. No one though thought that it would come out of Galilee or even Nazareth. The key is that they lived their lives waiting and preparing for God to do something great.
Like the people Nazareth, Advent should be for us about preparing for God to do a new thing, an unexpected thing. God not only wants to do a new thing in your life, he wants to do a bigger thing than He has ever done before in your life. Isn’t that amazing? What God has done in the past was sufficient but not for what God wants to do in your life now. The problem is that we often expect what God has done in the past is what He will do in the future and when we do, we limit God. God is about the new, not the old, about the future and not the former. What God did in the past was great but it’s not enough for what God wants to do in your life now.
God wants to do a new thing in your life. All throughout Scripture, God talks about wanting to do a new thing. Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins” Matthew 9:16-17 Why? Because it will burst the old wineskins! “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Psalm 96:1 “I will sing a new song to you…” Psalm 144:9 “He put a new song in my mouth.” Psalm 40:3 Did you hear it? God loves to do the new! What God did in the past needs to stay in the past because it’s not big enough for what He wants to do in your life and the life of this church in the coming year.
One of the problems is that we become comfortable in our relationship with God and our faith. And when we do, we lose the power of expectation. Remember when you were a kid looking forward to Christmas? All of the excitement and anticipation. I couldn’t sleep at night. When my parents were gone, I would search the house for the hidden gifts. I remember one year, I had looked under all the beds and through all of the closets and had narrowed it down to the attic. The stairway going up to the attic was in my sister’s closet. I went up there, climbed the stairs, went into the attic and after moving a few things around, I found the stash. I was so excited to see I was getting what I wanted. But you what? That was one of the worst Christmas’ I had ever had. Why? Because I had lost the power of expectation. What happens when we grow stale in our faith and our relationship with God is that we lose the expectation of the new thing God wants to do in your life.