Your one-stop online-hub for Calvary Chapel and the Calvary Global Network

From the Christmas Tree to the Tree of Calvary: The Meaning Behind Advent

Christian Living

by Jody Ponce

From the Christmas Tree to the Tree of Calvary: The Meaning Behind Advent

What does "advent" mean? Well, the word itself means: "The arrival of a notable person or thing." At this time of year we celebrate the arrival of the most notable person of all time, Jesus Christ. Advent has taken on different traditions throughout the course of Christian history, the advent calendar, lighting the advent candles, and in some Christian traditions, it is marked by a time of fasting. 

Advent is a time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

To help us think more deeply about the significance of Advent, let’s examine the first few verses of the Gospel of John to learn about the incredible gift of God that the world received when Jesus was born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. 

The first four verses of the Gospel of John state: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:1-4).

Each of the four Gospels highlight a different aspect of Jesus. The Gospel of John emphasizes the deity of Jesus. Why didn’t John, like the other Gospels, begin with the story of the stable in Bethlehem or the beginning of His ministry? Why doesn’t he refer to Jesus as Jesus, but instead calls Him “The Word?” Well, it was to indicate that Jesus existed long before there was ever a stable in Bethlehem, long before He was ever given the name Jesus, He was. 

Moreover, John emphasizes here that Jesus was not merely a man who walked the earth for 33 years, doing some miracles, but that He is God, and that it was Jesus who created our universe. When we think of the beauty of our planet, sometimes we must take a step back and just wonder at God’s creation. But even the wonder of our planet rotating in its place is dwarfed by the magnitude of our raging, fiery sun and the pristine, swirling rings of Saturn, the raging storms and murky atmosphere of Jupiter, the comets, meteors, moons and stars, the vast expanse of our solar system, spanning for thousands of light years. The spectacular phenomenon of dark stars existing invisibly, still pulling moons and planets with only the void of the place they once held in the universe. Black holes and dark matter bend the capacity of the human mind. Yet even the wonder of our galaxy and the billions of stars found in it are eclipsed by the multitude of countless other galaxies which exist and swirl in the realm of  God’s creation. As you sit and read this, out there the universe moves and shapes, stars explode, meteor showers clash and crash, and God knows it all. 

God made it all, and God holds it all together. This universe was spoken into existence by “the Word.” How unfathomably powerful is God? Yet, to me, what is even more incredible than God’s creation, is that He chose to come to earth as a baby. He, whom all the wonders of the universe emerged from, the intelligence, the science, the creativity, the power, the detail, the size, scope and enormity of Him, He became “made.” He came as a baby, powerless, tiny, helpless, dependent, insignificant, impoverished, vulnerable, and from the beginning, threatened by the very ones He had made. This is what God did, this is who Jesus is. He came to live as a human, so He could understand our humanity, He lived as a man, and we are told, “He was tempted in every way, yet was without sin” (Hebrew 4:15). He was and is, God, clothed forever in the body of a man, He is fully God and fully man; He is Jesus. 

This period of Advent is a time to celebrate the coming of Jesus into our world.

But let us also remember that Christmas foreshadows Easter as birth foreshadows death; the Christmas tree eventually becomes the tree of Calvary.

As we read here in John 1:4, “In Him was life.” This is true in the most literal sense. He literally was life. The tiniest proton to the most enormous sun comes from Jesus, and yet He who was “life,” died. He died to take the sin of mankind upon Himself; He died to once again bring life to us. And the most wonderful part is that death could not hold Him. He rose again. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” Nothing is more powerful than God, no matter how dark things may seem to you today. Do not forget His magnitude. Do not forget His power. Do not forget His great love for you. If Christ is in you, the darkness cannot overcome you, so put your trust in Him. 

If you are reading this today and you have not chosen to follow Jesus, I just want to remind you of the verse we read today in John 1:4, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of man.” Jesus is the source of everything, you included. He is the one who throws “light” on our lives, how can we know or understand ourselves; how can we discern why we are here, or why we exist at all without knowing the one who made us? Come to Jesus during this Advent season, so that you can know His love, grace and salvation in your life; and so that He can fill you with light and understanding to know your God given purpose on this earth. 

Merry Christmas to you all! 

Jody Ponce

Jody Ponce is on the women's ministry team in Calvary Cork, Ireland. She is married to Ricky Ponce, and she is the mother of three young children.