The word “advent” means “coming.” During this season, we step back in time to anticipate the coming of the baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us. We also look forward to Jesus’ future return as our King. This year, we will revisit how God has revealed himself to men, and what we are to do about it.
Genesis 1:1-3 states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was barren, with no form of life; it was under a roaring ocean covered with darkness. But the Spirit of God was moving over the water.
In chapter 2, starting in verse 7, we learn how humans were created: “The LORD God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the man started breathing.”
So here is the first instance of God revealing himself. He gave the man he had made His own breath! Can you see how intimate this was? God was as close to Adam as was physically possible. Adam was alive because of this close contact with God.
In verse 9, we find that God put two trees in the garden with Adam. “One of the trees gave life – the other gave the power to know the difference between right and wrong.” When God put the man in the garden, he told him not to eat from the second tree. He said that Adam would die if he did! Of course, we know that Adam and his wife, Eve, did eat from that tree. Because of this, they were sent out of the garden and they were not allowed to eat of the tree of life. They began their journey to death.
Before Adam and Eve knew right from wrong, it was impossible for them to sin. But as soon as they acquired the knowledge, they found that they had to make hard choices. They didn’t always make the right ones. They hid from God. They lied to him. They blamed each other for what they had done. God could not allow these people, who lived because of His own breath, to live forever in this sinful state. They were now in need of a savior.
People waited for thousands of years for a way back to life. We wait with them, in anticipation of the savior that is to come. But we are not waiting to be saved from our sins. Jesus has already done his work on the cross, and we have already been granted eternal life. We are waiting for the renewal of the whole world.
Jesus has given us work to do. In John chapter 20, Jesus has risen from the dead and is appearing to his disciples. Verses 21-23 read: “After Jesus had greeted them again, he said, “I am sending you, just as the Father has sent me.” Then he breathed on them and said, “
'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they will be forgiven. But if you don’t forgive their sins, they will not be forgiven.'”
Do you see what Jesus did? He breathed on the disciples, and gave them life in the Holy Spirit, just as God had breathed life into Adam. Jesus has asked us to continue His saving work. And that work is to forgive. The Holy Spirit is with us to allow us to do this. In order to forgive, we have to forget that we know right and wrong. We have to know only God’s Spirit and his grace.
Today we light the first candle. This is the candle of forgiveness. Who will light it with me?