November 29, 2015

Advent, Part 1

What Are We Waiting For?

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"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, God with us" (Matthew 1:23).

This is the season of Advent. So what really is advent and what is it all about? Advent started out as a time of fasting. It was like another time of Lent, except people's thoughts were directed to the second coming of Messiah. But in modern times, the season of Advent is just the time leading up to Christmas, Yeshua's first coming. But wait! Yeshua already came. Yet we still celebrate and wait for His coming leading up to Christmas.

It's always nice to remember one's birthday, but the early church did not celebrate Yeshua's birthday, nor does the Bible tell us when He was born. Actually, it was the Emperor Constantine who began the Christmas tradition of celebrating Yeshua's birth on December 25 to coincide with the birth of the pagan sun god, Mithra. Because Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire, this tradition has been kept for almost 1800 years. In reality, Yeshua was most likely born at the beginning of the Feast of Booths (Sukkot), a feast which celebrates "God with us," and on the eighth day, which is a celebration of rejoicing in the Word, was most likely circumcised. So why do we prepare for Yeshua's coming during this season of Advent if Yeshua has already come? What is it that we are waiting for? We want to take a closer look at these questions and try to answer them in a way that pertains to each one of us.

We know that this time is not for us to do our holiday shopping or for decorating our homes or trees—these have nothing to do with Yeshua's birthday or His first advent. Let's start by looking at the traditional song which is sung when the Advent candles are lit each week.

"O come, O come Immanuel (God with us) and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile until the son of God appears." What we see here is that Israel is waiting for her Messiah to come and save her from exile. This is one of the main jobs of the Messiah (Isaiah 10:21, Jeremiah 33:7, Zechariah 10:6-10). Even though Israel is back in her land with the state of Israel, Messiah will gather all His people and bring them back from exile.

"O come Thou Lord of Might who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's Height, In ancient times didst give the law in cloud, and majesty, and awe." Another job of the Messiah is to teach the world Torah. "And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths. For the Law (Torah) will go forth from Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem'" (Isaiah 2:1-5, Micah 4:2).

"O come the Rod of Jesse (Messiah), free Thine own from Satan's tyranny; from depths of hell thy people save and give them victory o'er the grave." Micah chapter 5 not only tells us that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, but He will be a Ruler who will shepherd His people Israel and He will have victory over all the enemies of Israel. Micah 5:9: "Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries, and all of your enemies will be cut off." And of course, the last enemy to be conquered is death (1 Corinthians 15:26).

"O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadows put to flight." In Luke 1:68-79, Zechariah's blessing, which he spoke after naming his son John, says this: "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise (Dayspring) from on high shall visit us (His advent), to shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

It's great to remember and celebrate the birth of Israel's Messiah, but that's not what we are waiting for; that is not what we are preparing for. We, along with the Jewish people, are waiting for the Messiah of Israel: not His first coming, but His second. When Messiah comes back, He will restore the kingdom and it is this that we need to prepare for. We will be taking a closer look at this in parts 3 and 4, so join us as we wait and prepare not for the birth of Messiah, but for His second coming, when He will come in all His glory and might.

"O come, Thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery." "And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the Living God." And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the Sons of Israel be as the sands of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved."

"Rejoice, Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel."

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