Friday, December 2, 2011

Twas the Very First Advent

Every year at Redeemer the LWML ladies host an Advent by candlelight. I've been honored to join them and share a devotion along with the tea and table fellowship. Here's the devotion from last night...along with something completely different at the end! Enjoy. And a Merry Advent to you all.

Advent is a peculiar season with a peculiar name. Thankfully, the word itself gives us the answer: Advent, from the Latin adventus, meaning to come, or appear. And knowing this simple definition helps us sort out the blessed peculiarity once we ask ourselves the Lutheran question, "what does this mean?" Who or what comes in Advent? Why do we celebrate this season? During this peculiar season, Christians must learn, not to be ambidextrous, but Advent-idextrous (yes, I just made that up. If you're in the Scripps national spelling bee the definition means to hold three teachings of Jesus in tension at one time; Language of origin - Latin and general Schuldheisz silliness). For Advent is somewhat like a triangle. Jesus' Advent is three-fold: He came. He comes. He will come again.

Now we all know about Jesus' first coming in human flesh, the God-man, the boy who lived come to die. But there's more. That's God's way of doing things; there's always more: more life, more forgiveness, more than you can ever ask for. The greatest joy in Advent is our hope of Christ's coming in glory, precisely because he came in the flesh. We await this coming with hopeful and joyful, pregnant expectation. It's like a mother in her 8th month of pregnancy. Baby's coming soon. Can't wait! So much to prepare. Readiness. Eager expectation. Holy fear. That's Advent. Therefore we can be confident in Jesus' second coming because of his first coming in the flesh. He came. He will come again.

And yet Jesus is not done Adventing himself among us. As we joyfully celebrate his first coming in Bethlehem and as we await his second coming in glory. He comes now - not as a child in a manger - but as a crucified and risen Savior. Jesus advents himself in His Word of truth. Jesus advents himself in the water of Baptism, washing us in his death and resurrection. Jesus advents himself in the absolution, announcing peace on earth and good will towards sinful men. Jesus advents himself in the Lord's Supper, feeding us with the same body and blood that once lay in a manger, born of Mary. That's Jesus' three-fold Advent. Now, I'm not suggesting you twist your Advent wreath into a triangle - although that might be an interesting concept - but we do well to keep the three advents alive during this season.

Just like St. Bernard, a monk from the middle ages once said, "In the first coming, Christ comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in Spirit and power; in the third, He comes in glory and majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third."

So with that in mind...enjoy a new twist on an old favorite: Twas the Night Before Christmas...Advent style!

Twas the very first Advent when all through the earth,
All creation was groaning for life and new birth.
Though sin, death and darkness had caused such great fear,
There's hope that a Savior soon will appear.

It starts with old Zach surrounded by holy smoke,
When right through the cloud of incense he spoke:
Mighty Gabriel came and promised a son,
John the forerunner of this Promised One.

Meanwhile in Nazareth of Galilee,
There dwelt a Virgin, favored and holy,
To whom the Lord sent the angel Gabriel,
Announcing a Savior from sin, death and hell.

When out of her mouth there arose such a wonder,
"I'm but a Virgin, how can this be, I ponder?"
"Do not be afraid," was the angel's word,
"For nothing is impossible for the Lord."

In the months leading up to that first Christmas Day,
Joe's fiance was pregnant - wait; what did you say?!
Unwilling to let his betrothed suffer shame,
He vowed not to let Mary take his last name.

While Joseph was nestled all snug in his bed,
The Angel Gabriel appeared over head:
"Do not fear to take Mary as  your dear wife.
The Holy Spirit conceived this child's own life.

You shall call his name, Jesus, that child within.
For he is the Savior from death, hell and sin."
Isaiah foretold this great Immanuel:
His name means, "God with his people shall dwell."

As the time of his birth drew closer at hand,
A census was ordered throughout the land.
"Man, woman and child: Go back where you're from."
So it's off on the donkey to Bethlehem home.

In comfort the Emperor lay down his head,
While a Virgin and husband search for a bed.
No room was found but a manger lowly,
Jesus' first Advent was humble yet holy.

When out in the fields there arose such a clatter.
The shepherd awoke to see what was the matter.
A myriad of heavenly hosts didst appear,
"I bring you good news of great joy, do not fear."

"A Savior's born yonder in Bethlehem town,
You'll find him swaddled, with hay for a crown,
Glory to God and on earth, He brings peace."
This child has come, your sin to release.

Away from the hillside they flew with great haste:
"We must find this child, not a moment to waste."
When, what to there wondering eyes should appear,
But a God-man, and Savior whose birth gives great cheer.

So the shepherds went forth with great joy and praising,
On mountains! On hillsides! Their voices were raising,
"Behold Zion's watchmen on top of the wall!
The Savior is born, now tell all! Tell all!"

And that is the story of Christ's first Advent-tide.
Yet still with his people he deigns to reside,
His Advent brings forgiveness in body and blood,
Through water and word in a Baptismal flood.

By his life and death he gives us new birth,
A blessed exchange, his death for our mirth.
But 'tis not the end of Christ's Advent story,
Still we await his Advent in glory.

This Advent-tide let your wreath flicker with cheer,
In hopes that Christ's second Advent soon will be here.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly, we pray.
We yearn for the dawn of that great Sabbath Day.

When not in a manger as in days long ago,
But a radiant Lamb, his glory to show.
When trumpets will herald our crucified King,
And the heavens with loud hosannas will ring.

He will spring to the earth, give his angels a whistle:
"Away sin and death and curse of the thistle."
With rejoicing we'll bow as he comes into sight.
A merry Advent to all, and to all a good night.

Also, a special thanks to Mark Beutow for the "emperor" line and Sean Daenzer for the shock and awe of Joe.

P.S. I found a triangle Advent wreath!  Check it out, here.


  1. Steven,

    Thanks for your kind words and thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed! Peace of Christ be with you this Advent.