We lose sight of the Spirit of Advent—and I don’t mean what you think.
Advent is training in the art of waiting, learning to anticipate and long for the coming kingdom of God. Advent is learning to say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” Advent reminds us of the glorious coming of the Son in the first advent, and the return of the Son in the second advent. We hope, we wait, we hope.
And pushing through Advent we get to Christmas where we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Sure, we have different family rituals and rhythms for Christmas. We have different Christmas parties and exchange Christmas presents. We remind ourselves that Jesus is the greatest gift from God. And we might all think this is the Spirit of Advent.
But this isn’t the Spirit of Advent. I’m not talking about remembering the discipline of waiting or focusing on the greatest gift.
When it comes to Advent we forget the role of the Spirit.
Does the Spirit Only Come After?
Growing up I learned just about nothing about the Holy Spirit. Up until high school I don’t even know if I even knew about the Trinity. All I ever heard about was the Father and the Son and all they had done.
It wasn’t until high school that our church started talking about “spiritual gifts.” But I for sure didn’t the full Pentecostal presentation of the Spirit. The Spirit was like the silent partner in the Trinity who just pointed toward the Son—like a sign that said, “Go that way.”
In college I learned about being immersed in the annual liturgical calendar. That’s when I learned about celebrating Pentecost every year—remembering how the Spirit was poured out on the church for blessing and mission.
And in each of these I learned that the Spirit always comes after. The Spirit comes after the advent of the Son, after the resurrection, after the ascension. The Spirit comes after to point to the work of the Son. The Spirit comes after to remind the disciples of the truth.
But the Spirit actually comes before.
This is the one things we forget about Advent: the Spirit at work.
The Spirit Leads the Way
The gospel of Luke opens up with an amazing display of the Spirit at work.
- Zechariah—the father of John the Baptist—receives a Spirit-enabled vision about his son who will be filled with the spirit and power of Elijiah in order to prepare the way of the Lord.
- Mary is told the Holy Spirit will come to hear and overshadow her so that she might bear the Son of God.
- Mary visits Elizabeth—the mother of of John the Baptist—and Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit.
- At the birth of John Zechariah is filled with the Spirit and prophesies and sings.
- John the Baptist grew and was strong in the Spirit.
What we get in Luke is an explosion of Spirit at work.
And this is after the Spirit of prophecy had left Israel for about 400 years. There hadn’t been any prophets who spoke, no prophecies to hear—nothing, for 400 years!
And now the Spirit is everywhere in preparation of the Son’s advent.
The Way It Always Has Been
The Spirit and the Son (or the Word) have always worked in tandem. We could say that the Word of God as revelation is always conjoined to the Spirit of God as presence.
- The Prophetic Word only comes through the Prophetic Spirit.
- The Revelation of God through the Word is always accompanied by the Residency of God is secured through the Spirit.
- The Torah (Word) is always joined to the Temple (Spirit).
- The Word of God in creation is only “spoken” through the Breath/Spirit of God.
So the Spirit’s work should comes as no surprise in Advent. The Incarnation of our Savior comes through the activity of the Spirit beforehand, not just after.
Preparing for the Spirit
If we long for the coming of Christ, then we need to long for the Spirit to be unleashed in our lives. If we hope for the coming King, then we need to hope for the filling of the Spirit. If we wait for the God’s kingdom come, then we need to yearn for the Spirit to be poured out.
If we forget the work of the Spirit this Advent, then we are in danger of missing the work of God in Advent.
When You send Your Spirit,
they are created, and You renew
the face of the earth. Ps. 104:30
Veni Creator Spiritus (hymn)
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator, come
from thy bright heav’nly throne;
come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thine own.
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