Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5
Advent is a time of devotional reading, worship, singing and prayer. It is also a time filled with rich symbolism reminding the Church of her heritage. The many lessons of Advent remind the people of God of our need for a Savior and God’s keeping His promise to send one. Advent, therefore, is a time when we reflect upon God’s gift of His Son, the Christ, and in our longing for his grace look toward the day when he will come again and reveal God’s kingdom in its fullness and glory.
The symbols of Advent are perhaps not as well-known as the symbols of Christmas. As Advent leads us into the celebration of God’s most precious gift, most symbols on display in December have more to do with the birth of Christ, rather than his suffering and death. But it cannot be overlooked that, without the events of Good Friday, Christmas would not have meaning.
As we look upon the cross of Christ we see the purpose for his coming. Jesus entered into our time and space to dwell with God’s people, teaching them the ways according to God’s righteousness. He came as a gift for all people and to give his life as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. The prophecy of Isaiah moves through the promise of God’s Anointed One, continues with the prophetic message of his birth and culminates at Christ’s victory of the cross. Without the events of the cross of Calvary, there truly is no need to celebrate the wonder of Bethlehem.
Christmas is a time of joy, a time of festivities and a time of celebration. But in the midst of this Advent journey, the Church understands this to be a season of reflection, preparation and thanksgiving. Through the Prophecy of the Suffering Servant, we learn of the depth of God’s love and the lengths he will go in order to save his people.
Turn our hearts and minds to you O God, making us thankful for the mercy and grace you so freely give to all who hear your gospel of truth. As we await the celebration of the coming King, we remember his sacrifice for the sake of our people. we give you thanks that through Christ we are forgiven and we look forward with faith to his coming again. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Photo credit: David Baer; 2013 NALC Convocation