Advent is a Latin word meaning “coming” or “presence”. We use the word of the season approaching Christmas because we are celebrating the coming of Christ to redeem the world. We spend a lot of money to buy gifts to give to people. Merchants promote the Christmas season to push their annual sales into the black. We eat a lot. Perhaps we party a lot. Then Christmas is over and everything returns to the way it was before.
The Christian author and teacher, Origen, asked a pertinent question about advent in a sermon he preached to his congregation in Caesarea, Palestine in the third century A. D. “What advantage is it,” he asked, “if I should say that Jesus has come only in that flesh which he received from Mary, and I do not also show that he has come in this flesh of mine?”
What would it mean for Jesus to come “in this flesh of mine”? Origen cited three verses from Paul that show what he understood it to mean. The first was Romans 6:19, “Just as you used to present the members of your body to serve injustice . . . so now offer them to serve justice . . . .” The second was Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” And the third was Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? Shall tribulation, or distress, or danger, or the sword?”
The first of these verses points to a moral indicator of the presence of Christ in our lives—justice in our dealings with all people. The second refers to a Christ-controlled life in which doing what he wants is more important than doing what I want, and the third points to a firm confidence in God’s love for us displayed in Christ that overcomes the fear of the calamities and disasters that confront us in life, whether they are external or internal. One of the important meanings of advent is to let Christ work redemptively right now in my life.
Dr. Ronald Heine, Ph.D.
professor of biblical studies