As With Gladness

As with Gladness HOPE

The first Sunday of Advent sometimes sneaks up on us, doesn't it? Having just recovered from the feasting of Thanksgiving, we gathered this Lord's Day past and it was that first Christmasy hymn that ushered in the new season. We celebrate Advent to proclaim the good news of God's love and salvation, to remind ourselves and our friends of all that is true of Christ and why the earth and man desperately need his peace. We long for his presence, we hope for peace in every relationship, and we ache for relief from all sickness, sin, heartache, and death.

As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold;
as with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright;
so most gracious God, may we evermore be led to thee.

The Latin adventus has rich connotations of arrival and coming, but it can also refer to an invasion, incursion or an appearance. What power and beauty this can be as we gather each week and sing, hear the word preached, enjoy communion with God and man, and rest in our Savior again and again. Christ has absolutely appeared and Advent absolutely exalts him. He is the full flower of all those ancient promises of God. And so, our greens are hung in the sanctuary with care and now the first candle stands among us bright and beautiful, and we are full of hope.

As with Gladness candle

As with joyful steps they sped to that lowly cradle bed,
there to bend the knee before him who heav'n and earth adore;
so may we with willing feet ever seek thy mercy seat.

This first week of Advent celebrates the hope we have in God's Christ, which we read in all the many prophecies concerning him. Every prophetic word of the Old and New Testament offers a hope that is an anchor for the soul. Like honey his word always sweetens, heals, and renews--it never returns void. The prophecies of Christ especially remind us that God is true and trustworthy, and every single one of the roughly four hundred prophecies concerning God's redemption are "Yes! and Amen!" in Jesus!

So, if you are asked why you celebrate Advent or why you're wearing your purple with a little pomp, you can tell all who have ears to hear that it is because of Jesus. The anticipation of his birth is inescapable. Perhaps this year will be the first time someone you love will hear the gospel and come to saving faith in Christ. Let us never forget to love and pray for our unbelieving friends and family. For others the lights, trees, and presents will remain the main thing and Jesus's "birthday" will get a mere nod. But for the lovers of God, found in every corner of the world, for those that are his true sheep and his beloved possession, there will be sweet and special worship, feasting and fellowship, singing and rejoicing in the greatest story ever told. Our whole year really begins with his coming, it is the main thing. This is no "pagan holiday" or empty tradition, this is the yearly proclamation of the advent of God's kingdom, this kingdom that "will have no end."

As they offered gifts most rare at that cradle rude and bare;
so may we with holy joy, pure, and free from sin's alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring, Christ to thee, our heav'nly King.

Mild though he came, Christ is fully God. His birth brought to earth the peace that man so desperately needed. The moment Isaiah foretold had finally appeared:

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined" (Isaiah 9:2).

Christ truly is the Light of the World and the Prince of Peace.

Holy Jesus, ev'ry day keep us in the narrow way;
and when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide, where no clouds thy glory hide.

With the prophecy candle now lit, we honor our verifiable faith and praise God for the hope that has survived generations of adversity, heresy, and faithlessness of broken people. We profess a gospel that is truly good news to those who believe and it is grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This Christ is our Redeemer, who was promised from the beginning of time. We find early whispers of him in Eden:

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring, He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Genesis 3:15

The prophet Isaiah foretold Christ:

"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:6-7

And Micah:

"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace." Micah 5:2-5


In the heav'nly country bright need they no created light;
thou its light, its joy, its crown, thou its sun which goes not down;
there forever may we sing alleluias to our King.

Perhaps a wonderful family habit during this season would be to study the many prophecies of Christ found in the Scriptures. These words of life are our abiding hope, dear friends. There is hardship, sickness and despair among us. But the King of Glory never steps down off his throne, and in his mercy and love he has and he will remove all anguish and gloom (Isaiah 9). Sometimes we experience this relief on this side of heaven, but when we do not and if we suffer, we must hold on to the promises of God's faithfulness to restore everything in his time and ask him boldly for the grace to walk steadily and believe him despite our circumstances. God is near the broken-bodied and broken-hearted. The Father's gift of nearness and love is Christ our joy! He is our very present comfort and rest.

Let us pray and sing with our hearts full:

"Hail the heav'n born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, ris'n with healing in his wings!"

Because he graciously laid his glory by (think about that for a moment), we can "no more die" and this should lift our heads and give us hope. We anticipate Messiah's coming and await the renewal of all that is broken, both now and in the life to come. Wait upon the Lord, be strong and courageous, and wait with hope! Your waiting is not in vain.

Here are a few wonderful resources for this season of Advent:

The hymn highlighted in this post is "As With Gladness, Men of Old"
Malcom Guite's book of poetry and devotions, Waiting on the Word
Sinclair Ferguson's book, Love Came Down At Christmas
The Gospel of Luke :)

Leslie Stivers