ADVENT: the arrival of a notable person, event, or thing
I am a total English nerd, so I like talking about English terms. Denotation is the dictionary definition of a word and the connotation is the sort of meaning we associate with it. Whether you celebrate it or not, you probably know the denotation of advent. It’s the time of year before Christmas where people celebrate the arrival of Jesus. But the connotations are more subtle. What does advent mean for YOU?
For me, it’s a time of year that seems more sacred than most. It gets all tied up with the scent and feel of Christmas. Cinnamon and cloves and pine and that crisp winter air. (Even in Houston we get at least ONE crisp day.) It feels cozy to me, and yet set apart and special: a candlelit time of year with the hush of a fancy event. Celebratory, but a reverent celebration. That’s how advent feels to me.
One of the common passages people read during advent is in Genesis 3 where God pronounces that the serpent will strike at the seed of the woman and he will crush the serpent’s head. But for me, there is even more powerful picture of Jesus in and around that passage.
Genesis 3:21- The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Bear with me for a second and I’ll explain how this speaks Jesus and advent to me. If you go back and read the whole passage, God gave one commandment: not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If they did, God said they would die.
We read the curses and see the judgment, but we often miss the grace here. First of all, Adam and Eve don’t die. Because of this act, they will eventually die, but they did not die when they ate of it. (Some translations like the ESV say “the day you eat it.”) Who died? An animal in order that God could clothe them.
What a tender act, that covering. One of the first things to come from this first sin was shame. They realized they were naked, were ashamed, and tried to cover themselves with leaves. God covers their shame with clothing, and in a sense, that animal was a substitution for them. The animal died and they lived. Its death resulted in an adequate covering for their shame. This tender act despite the offense Adam and Eve committed against God in the first place by disobeying.
I see Jesus here because of how he stoops down to cover us. Very God, born in a barn and cradled in a feeding trough.
How we are the guilty ones, deserving of death, yet he dies in our place to cover us. His blood takes away our shame.
Advent really begins in those first pages of the Bible when God clothes a disobedient people. When a substitute dies in their place. When God covers a people who are not able to adequately cover themselves.
This is advent: looking from Genesis to Matthew to Revelation. From the garden to the manger to a triumphant return. We are still in an advent period, not just looking to that moment in time when the stars in the sky and a host of angels announced Immanuel, God with us.
(This is based on a day in my advent devotional Make Him Room, still free through December 2!)
I can’t wait for the rest of this month! 23 other writers are joining me to reflect on advent. I’ll be linking to their posts this month and I hope you’ll read along, be encouraged and share. You can follow along by checking out the Voices in the Desert page.
So, what does advent mean to you? What connotations come with this time of year?