First Advent Sunday: Christ Is Our Hope
Isaiah 11:1-5, There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of remembrance of Christ's first coming, but also looking ahead to Christ's second coming. Many families mark this time with an Advent Wreath, lighting candles each Sunday before Christmas; candles which represent different aspects of Christ's ministry.
In the tradition of the Advent Wreath, the first candle to be lit today is referred to as “The Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets were used of God to both “forthtell” God’s message to the people, as well as to “foretell” information about future events that God would one day bring to pass in his own timing and for his own purposes.
One of the major themes of the prophetic material, in terms of future events, was the coming of the Messiah. God himself gave the first prophecy concerning the Messiah in Genesis 3:15 where he told the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” It was God's grace that, after this first sin by mankind, God promised a coming Son, born of a woman, who would defeat the serpent which deceived the woman in the Garden of Eden.
As time progressed, many other prophecies were given concerning this Messiah. With each prophecy, a new sense of hope was given; hope in the coming Messiah who would set his people free.
In Isaiah’s prophecy, written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet speaks of someone coming from Jesse, King David’s father. This prophecy does not speak of David, for David’s reign had already come and gone when Isaiah wrote this. We know that it speaks of one whom we call, “David’s greater Son,” who is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.
It would be hope in this “Rod from the stem of Jesse” that would give the Jewish people hope, believing that a great king would come and rule in justice, righteousness, and faithfulness. He would set things right on the earth; he would free his people; he would defeat the serpent. In coming, he would not be corrupt, for the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon him.
The kind of hope that these prophesies give is not a wishful thinking kind of hope. There was no possibility of God’s Word failing. This hope speaks of a confident expectation that God’s Word would indeed come to pass. The hope of the prophetic writings has been realized in Jesus of Nazareth. He came in the power of the Holy Spirit and perfectly did the Father’s will, including dying as the Lamb of God for the sin of the world. Though he did not set up his earthly kingdom in his first advent, he is coming again to rule and reign, perfectly fulfilling all of what this, and other prophets foretold of him.
The people of the Old Testament yearned hopefully for the Messiah’s first advent; we have a confident expectation that Christ will come again. Just as the Old Testament Israelites yearned for their Messiah to come, so we Christians eagerly await his glorious return. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
Text: 8th Century
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave.
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
And drive away the shades of night,
And pierce the clouds and bring us light!
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.