1 Thing about Advent We Usually Forget

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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Being the Temple for the World #1

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.


newjer_02_0On Sunday we started new class on “God with Us: Being the Temple for the World”

I know that not everyone at Life on the Vine could make it, and perhaps others on the inter-webs might be interested, so I’m going to try and write up quick summaries of each class.

We started with the question of “What does the phrase ‘God with us’ make us think about it”?  Answers ranged from this being a comforting promise to it being a truth that can seriously let us down.  Is God ‘with us’ in our ideas, opinions, our community, the world?  And really, how, when, and where is God ‘with us’?  Is “GOD with us” or “God with US”?  And what does this have to do with “salvation”, and “eschatology”, and all those other theological words?

God With Us

After this discussion I began to set the terms and outline for the class.  The first is “God with us.”

When we look at Matthew’s Gospel we see an angel of the Lord come to Joseph and tell him not to put away Mary for the child was from God.  Matthew then tells us that All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us’” (Matt. 1:23).

This statement, Emmanuel, God with us, sets the tone for God’s work in Jesus, that now in a new way God is going to be with humanity.

And we see this confirmed at the end of Matthews Gospel:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28: 16-20)

In a sense, Matthew is telling us that God’s work of salvation is not so we can be with God “up” in heaven some day, but that God desires to be with us on earth everyday.

At the end of Revelation we hear of the New Heavens and the New Earth (as one).  A voice declares: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21: 3).

Heaven and Earth

This allusion to Revelation leads us to our second guiding term, or terms: Heaven and Earth.

Just think of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come; your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus understands the work of prayer, indeed, the work of God, to be that of bring God’s kingdom rule and kingdom will from heaven down to earth.  These are not mutually exclusive terms, but rather ones that are separated for a time but being slowly brought back together.

The question for this class is “Are there other places, other ways of heaven coming to earth?” beyond just Jesus in the incarnation and the final end, or the finalé, of all creation?

Place, Person, People

The answer is emphatically yes, that God has been and will be “with us” in different ways.  In the following classes we will broadly look at three ways that God has been with us.

First, God’s presence was principally located in a Place, the Temple of Israel.

Second, God’s presence was principally located in a Person, Jesus the Son of God.

Third, God’s presence was principally located in a People, the Church,  new Temple.

But before we get to all this, we are going to start with Genesis 1 and 2 and ask if we can see God’s presence dwelling with humanity at the very beginning and what this might mean for the rest of the story.

So this Sunday we’ll be talking about Genesis One.

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

God With Us, #1: From Garden to Garden.

New Jerusalem, by Gustave Doré
New Jerusalem, by Gustave Doré

The season of Advent prompts me to think on the coming of Christ, of Immanuel, God with us.  It makes me think of the deep mysteries of the Incarnation and the doctrine of Christology (that Christ is both God and human). 

And yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, the day in which we remember that not only did Christ come to set his people free in the past, but that that he will come again (how many of your preach the Second Coming at least once a year?).

God’s New Dwelling Place

Think of John apocalyptic vision: With the coming of the New Heavens and the New Earth this is what John proclaims:

“Behold! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev. 21:3)

When Christ comes again and establishes his kingdom it will mean that God is again dwelling among his people.  God will live with his people.

This “dwelling place” in some translations is more accurately termed “tabernacle” (sk?n?), reminding us of God’s first portable temple.  It also reminds us of other time God’s “tabernacle” was among the people when the Word “took on flesh and made his dwelling (sk?no?) among us” (John 1:14).

God’s Old Dwelling Place

And was not the Garden of Eden meant to be a place for God to dwell with God’s people?

After that fateful fruit episode in the Garden we hear of God walking in the Garden looking for Adam and Eve.  Do we think this happened only because God was stalking Adam and Eve after their transgression, but pretty much ignored them beforehand? No.  God delighted to dwell with them in the Garden and regularly joined them there

God wanted to be with us.

God With Us, Now

It is safe to say this has always been God’s plan: that God would dwell with his people, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of the New City.  It may have even been the entire purpose of creation was that God would dwell with his people.

But this “God with Us” is not only something in the past now lost, or something in the future to be gained.  Rather it is something that happens even now.

As we look into the reality of “God With Us” this Advent I hope that we come to realize that God is always with us, even to the end of the age.