Updated: a day ago
By Ian Pike
Advent has been celebrated throughout Christian history as a time set apart for preparing and anticipating a sacred event. The focus has changed throughout history, and in modern times the focus is on Christmas. Each Sunday has a special theme of hope, peace, joy, and love in the lead-up. Each of these themes is significant in the preparation and anticipation of Jesus’s birth.
Hope is important because we live in a world where there is so little of it. Hope is defined as a “favourable and confident expectation”, and this is what happens to us when we focus our lives upon Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, hope is listed as being necessary with faith and love. In this season, it is important for us to control our thinking and to come alive by the hope that God gives. Romans 15:13 tells us that God is the God of hope. As we choose to live His way, there will be a continual expectation given to us by God. Romans 5:5 declares that this hope does not disappoint. This is so encouraging because there can be many disappointments in life, but with God, we always have hope. In this first week of preparation, let us be encouraged by experiencing that favourable and confident expectation that comes from God.
In John 14:27, Jesus told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. There is a big difference between the peace of the world, which is ‘the absence of strife’ and the peace the Bible describes as ‘harmony and calmness experienced in our spirit, soul and body’. When the disciples were in a storm, Jesus said to the seas, “Peace be still”. The Bible records that nature obeyed him, and there was a great calm. This was also experienced within the disciples. In this time of incredible uncertainty, we need to focus on Jesus, for He is our source of peace. This is an area in which our light can shine in this dark world. While other people are full of worry, we have peace in our life that impacts every person around us.
The Bible describes joy as ‘the feeling of good pleasure’. Life is so good when we experience that feeling of good pleasure. Nehemiah 8:10 declares, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”. This is true in our life for if we allow the cares of this world to overwhelm us, we struggle every day. This is why it is so important to spend time with the Lord every day. When we do, the feeling of good pleasure is what we continually experience. In this week, make sure that you set apart time to experience the Lord. 1 Peter 1:8 talks about rejoicing with joy inexpressible. God desires us to enjoy life by continually being in His presence. Psalm 16:11declares, “In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand, are pleasures forever more”.
As we come to the final week of preparation, we come to one of the most important aspects of why Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The theme for this week is love, and it is essential to understand that the word love is not a feeling but is expressed by what we do. We are reminded that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only son’ (John 3:16). Jesus taught in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another “. It is so important that we experience the love of God for ourselves because it is only when we experience this that we can effectively share this love with others. Now is an excellent time to put this into practice. We experience such pleasure when we love other people, and this stops all divisions for love unites.
As we prepare ourselves over these four weeks, we pray that you experience the hope, peace, joy and love that Christ bought to the world. The true meaning of Christmas is worth more than any gift we could ever buy. It was freely given by a God who loves us so much that he didn’t remain distant but came down to earth to dwell with us and provide the hope, peace, joy and love that comes from living in His presence.