The Glory of the Advents: The First Advent

1 John 1:1-4  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-  2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-  3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Introduction

Have you ever really, really wanted something, even to the point where it was difficult to think about anything else?  Have you ever wanted something so much that it was hard to imagine life without it?  Have you ever wanted something such that it consumed your thoughts and plans and emotions?  I’ve experienced that a number of times in my life.

Unfortunately, I remember as a teenager being consumed by a desire to have a certain kind of jeans.  I remember as a 7th grade basketball player feeling like I couldn’t live without a pair of Air Jordans.  I remember really wanting a Nintendo.  I remember really wanting to go to a Milli Vanilli concert.

I also remember really, really wanting to go on a ski trip with my best friend over Christmas break as a freshman in high school.  I loved skiing and the thought of doing it every day for 5 days at a great resort was nearly overwhelming.  For weeks and weeks I begged and pleaded with my parents.  I got up early every Sunday morning to watch Warren Miller’s Extreme Skiing in preparation.  I remember one day, as the trip was getting closer, my mom dropping the hint that she and my dad were leaning against letting me go.  I lost it.  As a boy on the edge of becoming a man (although I found out in that moment that I was further from becoming a man than I’d previously thought), I broke down in tears.  I was crushed at the thought of them saying no.  I was so emotionally invested in the trip that the pain of possibly not being able to go was almost more than I could bear.  I couldn’t even imagine the agony that would come if I was actually told that I couldn’t go.

Eventually (and in many ways unfortunately) my parents did in fact give their consent and I was allowed to go (probably, in part, to avoid the monster I was sure to become if they didn’t).

Far and away, the majority of the time I found myself wanting things that badly, they ended in disappointing fashion.  My jeans weren’t very comfortable, my Air Jordans didn’t make me jump higher or shoot better, I always had to blow on the Nintendo to get it to work, and Milli Vanilli, well…  In spite of all the emotional buildup, the things I so longed for failed to deliver.  Even the ski trip, which came as close to delivering as anything I’d wanted, eventually faded and failed to provide any sustained satisfaction as well.

In addition to demonstrating how shallow I was as a young person, these stories also demonstrate the power of something hardwired into all of us: the longing to be satisfied in the deepest parts of our being.  We are made to long for things, to give our whole being to things, and to be truly satisfied in things.  The problem, however, is that although we set our affections on all kinds of things in the hopes that they will provide the satisfaction we were designed for, one thing and one thing alone can truly satisfy: God.

Sin is first and foremost heinous because it robs God, the King of all creation, of the glory He is due.  The chief sinfulness of sin is that it falls short of the glory of God.  Another heinous aspect of sin, though, is that it keeps people from finding the true satisfaction we all long for and were made to find.  Sin blinds us to that which can really satisfy.  What’s worse, sin makes things that can never truly satisfy us look like they can.  The result is that all people (because all people sin) are always eating but always hungry.  We’re always drinking but always thirsty.  We’re always consuming but always longing.

Grace, here’s the point of all of this: the chief glory of Jesus’ first Advent is that it provides the remedy for all of this.  As we’ll see in just a few minutes, in coming to earth and all that he did while on earth, Jesus accomplished glory for the Father and everlasting satisfaction for mankind.  He brought glory to the Father by perfectly obeying Him and imaging forth His glory.  And he accomplished satisfaction for man by dying to pay for the sins of man, therein providing the means of reconciliation between holy God and sinful man.  Please pray with me, then, that the glory of historical fact of the first Advent and the glory of all that it accomplished would overwhelm your soul and shape your entire life—especially this Advent season.

The Glory of the History of the First Advent

There are two things that we need to understand about the first Advent of Jesus if we are to truly appreciate its glory.  First, it is absolutely essential to understand that the Advent of Jesus is not first or merely a philosophical notion or a religious concept, it is first and primarily a historical reality.  The coming of Jesus is not an idea, it is a fact.  Jesus did not come in the hearts of believers, but through the womb of a woman into the city of Bethlehem.  Jesus’ Advent is not something that’s happening continually through the faith of his followers, but something that happened at a point in time around 2,000 years ago.

From this, Grace, we also need to know that the events surrounding the birth of Jesus are not loosely catalogued or roughly recorded.  We do not have third and fourth and fifth hand accounts written down by people generations later.  Rather, we have the events of Jesus first coming preserved in remarkable detail by people who lived with Jesus and spent time with Jesus’ family.  And we have their first-hand account, under the inspiration of God, recorded in our bibles.  Consider John’s words on this matter.

1 John 1:1-4  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-  2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-  3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Jesus first Advent is historical and its history is well recorded.

With that, consider freshly the story of Jesus first Advent as told by Matthew and Luke.  Forget that you’ve heard it dozens of times and try to listen as if it were your first.

Matthew 1:18-24  Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…

From there, Luke picks up…

Luke 2:1-11  In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Grace, if you’ve been here for any length of time, you’ve heard me urge you not to miss the simple fact that these events are not to be taken lightly.  When claims like Holy Spirit conceived, virgin birth, angel visits and angel choirs, prophecy, and savior are made concerning the birth of someone, we really have just two options: either we reject them as ridiculousness or we embrace them wholly and order our entire lives around them.  Claims this big and this sensational are either the product of lunatics or liars or they change everything.  You and I need to make our choice today as we move closer and closer to the celebration of these events.

In other words, if you think these accounts and claims concerning Jesus’ first Advent are mere religious fantasy or sentimental wishfulness or a good story for kids, then you ought to have nothing to do with them.  You ought to avoid them and people who celebrate them in much the same way you would avoid the celebration and celebrators of the flying spaghetti monster’s cosmic pasta party.

If, on the other hand, you (like me) do believe the words of the apostles concerning the Advent of Jesus, then we need to stop pretending like they are cute and cuddly and tamable and we need to start acting in ways more appropriate for their message.  (As the song goes), they are a declaration of war on sin and death and the trumpet of God’s victory over them.  They are the great proclamation that God himself is with us!

The first thing to understand about Jesus’ first Advent is that it is a historical fact (rather than a mere concept or idea).  The second thing to understand is that it accomplished far more than most people realize.  Understanding the first thing is a call to action.  Understanding the second thing motivates us for action and clarifies the nature of our action.  Let’s consider, then the purposes of the first Advent.

The Glory of the Purposes of the First Advent

As I began to search and read and pray about what the Bible has to say about the reasons for Jesus’ first coming, I could think of quite a few and I assumed I’d find a few new ones, but I really wasn’t prepared for what I found.  The number of reasons given in Scripture is beyond what I imagined.  I found (and I’m sure I missed a few) 26 explicitly given reasons for Jesus’ first Advent.

For your good and God’s glory, I want to simply read through this list and then briefly unpack just one item on it at the end.  As I do, I invite you to do a few things: 1) pray that God would grant you an appetite for the glory of the God-man, Jesus Christ, and the work he accomplished (that God would help you be amazed by this list because it’s amazing); 2) consider which one or two stand out to you the most and then determine what you are going to do as a result; and 3) share with at least one other person the which one stood out to you and what you’re going to do about it.

With that, consider with me the facts that Jesus came into the world to…

  1. Jesus came into the world to judge the world, bringing sight to the blind and blindness to the seeing.

John 9:39  Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

  1. Jesus came into the world to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Mark 1:38  And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Luke 4:42-43  And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them,  43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

  1. Jesus came into the world to seek sinners and call them to salvation.

Mark 2:17  “… I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

  1. Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

1 Timothy 1:15  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

  1. Jesus came to save the world from condemnation and death and to eternal life.

John 3:16-17  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

  1. Jesus came into the world to die on the cross for the glory of the Father.

John 12:27-28  Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

John 17:4  I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

  1. Jesus came to taste death for the children of God.

Hebrews 2:9  But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

  1. Jesus came into the world to serve mankind and give his life as a ransom.

Matthew 20:28  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  1. Jesus came to redeem and propitiate God’s people by his blood.

Romans 3:23-25  …all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…

  1. Jesus came as a man in order to become a merciful and faithful high priest and make propitiation for the sins of God’s people.

Hebrews 2:17  Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

  1. Jesus came into the world as an expression of God’s love and to be the propitiation for the sins of mankind.

1 John 4:10   In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

  1. Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh in order to condemn sin and fulfill God’s righteous requirements for mankind.

Romans 8:3-4  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

  1. Jesus came to redeem God’s people and adopt them as His sons and daughters.

Galatians 4:4-5  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

  1. Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth.

John 18:37  …For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth…

  1. Similarly, Jesus came to reveal the will of God to the people of God.

John 17:8  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

  1. Jesus came into the world, having been sent by the Father, to do the will of the Father.

John 6:38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

  1. Jesus came into the world to be a light and lead people out of the darkness.

John 12:46  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

  1. Jesus came into the world to bring abundant life to all mankind.

John 10:10  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

  1. Jesus came into the world to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 5:17  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

  1. Jesus came into the world to bring a sword and to divide earthly bonds.

Matthew 10:34-35  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Luke 12:51  Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

  1. Jesus came to take away sins.

1 John 3:5  You know that he appeared to take away sins…

  1. Jesus came to bless mankind and turn him away from his wickedness.

Acts 3:26  God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

  1. Jesus came in flesh and blood to destroy the devil and all his works.

Hebrews 2:14  Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…

1 John 3:8  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

  1. Jesus came to unite us with Himself in order that we might know God.

1 John 5:20  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ…

  1. Jesus came as a merciful servant to show God’s truthfulness and confirm God’s promises to both Jew and gentile.

Romans 15:8-9  For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,  9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy…

  1. Finally, and the one I’ll very briefly comment on, Jesus came in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the oppressed and captive, the power of God for healing to the blind, and the year of the Lord’s favor to the children of the King.

Luke 4:18-19  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

From this, I want you to notice three things.  First, Jesus, in this passage, is claiming a prophecy from Isaiah (61:1-2) for himself.  In this prophecy God promised through Isaiah to send a deliverer for His people from their poverty and blindness and captivity and oppression.  Grace, marvel with me in the glory of the fact that Jesus has come as this deliverer of suffering and this bringer of God’s favor!

Second, notice the simple fact that Jesus was born in lowliness, lived in lowliness, and spent his time among the lowly.  During this Advent season and in our Christmas celebrations, then, let’s make sure to include the people whom Jesus included.  Look for ways to include friends and family and those who have been lifted up.  But also, look for ways to include those whom Jesus would have celebrated with, the stranger and foreigner and lonely and broken and orphan and widow.

And third, notice from this reason for Jesus’ first Advent the simple fact that all of this, even for Jesus, was accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Grace, if not for God’s work in you, at worst you’ll ignore all of this and “celebrate Christmas” unaffected by all of this and caught up in the swift cultural current, and at best you’ll try in your own strength to mussel and will yourself into legalistic obedience.  If, on the other hand, you look not to your own strength, but to the strength of the Spirit of God this (and all of the rest as well) will be your joy and your satisfaction.

Grace, dare this year to go beyond being carried along by unexamined activities or mere obedience and beg God to give you a deep, deep longing—the kind where it was difficult to think about anything else, where it is hard to imagine life without it, where it consumes your thoughts and plans and emotions—to live and celebrate in a manner consistent with what we profess as Christians. This is His will for you in Jesus Christ and he has given you his Holy Spirit to work it out in you.

Grace, the title of this series is “The Glory of the Advents.”  Do you see the glory?  It is glory in the highest!  There is no greater glory that what is revealed in these promises.  If you are celebrating this season, these are the reasons.  Family togetherness and good food and fond memories of your childhood and presents and Christmas cheer and pretty lights may be fine expressions of your satisfaction in this glory revealed, but they can never replace it.  If they have, if these things stir your affections more than the actual person and work of Jesus, repent and find the life Jesus purchased for you by his blood.

What’s more, Grace, this glory is glorified in that it is offered to all mankind—to every tribe and tongue and nation—to everyone who would trust in this Jesus and His Advent glory.  The glory of the Advents are not reserved for a select few.  They are not exclusively for the privileged or educated or beautiful or for a particular people group or race or ethnicity.  This glory revealed is glad tidings and great joy for all mankind!

Conclusion

That Jesus, the Son of God came to earth as a man, is a historical fact.  And the reasons for, and benefits of, his coming are beyond measure.

Grace, once again, don’t let these things become stale.  Don’t sleep on them.  Don’t let this season of Advent celebration pass you by with your thoughts and affections mainly on the things of this earth.  Instead, I invite you to gaze upon the true glory of the Advent of Jesus and praise the One who left heaven to pay your debt and give you life.