The Purpose of Advent

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8b)

If we are going to meditate on Advent throughout the month of December, we must know the reason we celebrate this season. It’s not about giving gifts or receiving gifts. As good as it may seem (and as warm as it may make you feel inside), Advent (the Christmas season) is not about making the holiday special for the poor or widows and orphans. It is not about serving others.

We anticipate and celebrate Christ’s Advent because he was ultimately born to die. In his first epistle, John writes it as plainly as it gets in Scripture: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (3:8b). That is a Christmas verse if I have ever read one. What are the works of the devil? Sin (see 1 John 3:8a). Christmas only makes sense from the top of Golgotha, where Jesus gave up his life for the sins of men and women.

Just before Jesus was born, an angel appeared to his earthly, adoptive father, Joseph. The angel said to Joseph “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). From all eternity, God had planned to save a people from himself through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of his Son (see Eph. 1:3-14).

Jesus appeared (i.e. was born) for the crucifixion and resurrection, God’s culminating salvation event when Christ would die for God’s people to satisfy God’s wrath and reconcile them to God and rise from the dead to provide justification before God and eternal life in his never-ending joyful presence. That is something worth celebrating this Christmas.


If you only go to Bethlehem, you haven’t gone far enough.

Have you ever wondered why so many artists (who aren’t Evangelical Christians) have recorded classic Christmas hymns praising Jesus? Neil Diamond belting out “Silent Night.”  Mariah Carey performing “O Holy Night.”  Natalie Cole giving a stirring rendition of “The First Noel.”  The list goes on and on.

Well, here’s a possible answer to my question:

A baby Jesus isn’t very intimidating, but a Jesus who dies on the cross for your sins and miraculously rises from the dead and demands honor, love, and repentance is.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jesus was just as much God at birth as he was on the cross.  But if we have learned anything from Ricky Bobby, we’ve learned that praying (or in this case, singing) to an “8 lb. 6 oz. newborn infant Jesus…just a little infant, so cuddly” is not awe-inspiring.  Praying to the God of the universe who went to the cross for all the times you trampled upon his glory, however, is.

First John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  That means that little baby Jesus was born to kill sin.  The only way Jesus could make this happen would be to move on from his manger in Bethlehem toward Golgotha in Jerusalem, where he died on the cross and then triumphantly rose from the dead to conquer sin, Satan, death, and hell.

If you love the classic hymns of the season, sing them with honor and reverence and praise for the Baby who grew up into a Man and died and rose again.  Jesus didn’t stay in Bethlehem.  Neither should we.