The season of Advent is upon us! Christians around the world are in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent represents our preparation, anticipation, and expectation for who Christ is and what he has done for us.
The word ‘advent’ is of Latin origin and simply means "the coming," or as Christians view it, "the coming of Christ."
Advent is indeed special. It reminds us that Christ, the son of God, came into the world – as both God and man – to redeem. Jesus came into the world to identify as one of us. Yes, Jesus’ birth is the Word made flesh, for the prophets of the Old Testament foretold the coming.
The Prophet Isaiah reminds us, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (7:14). Immanuel means "God is with us."
Often this is the only Christmas gift that we need – to know that God is with us.
The year 2012 may not have been a great year for you. You may have lost your job. Lost your husband or wife. Lost your child to senseless violence in our community (as the murder rate surpasses last year's). Lost your home. Lost something else material. But thanks be to God, you have not lost your faith.
If there is one thing that wakes me up every day, it is knowing that God is with me. As a pastor, I face my own trials. Some of them I have created. Some were beyond my control. But what gives me comfort is knowing that God is with me.
When I am down, I know God is with me. When I'm confused, I know God is with me. When I sin (yes, pastors do sin), I still know that God is with me. And when I am depressed and feel like giving up, I still know that God is with me!
Yes, Jesus is Immanuel. He is the precious gift that you need. You don't need something from Macy's, Nordstrom’s, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, etc. What you need is Jesus!
In preparing our hearts, minds and spirits for the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us remember that God sent his only begotten son to us as a gift. I pray this Christmas season that you might receive this precious gift. It's free. All you need to do is open your heart to receive him.
As always, keep the faith.
The Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson is senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church.