As Advent winds down and Christmas approaches, Fox News Digital reached out to four faith leaders for their insights into this liturgical season and their spiritual preparations for the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Judge Phil Ginn, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, turned to a verse from the Epistle to Titus to illustrate his feelings about Advent.
"In Titus 2: 11-13, Paul tells us how we should be living in light of the very first Advent: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the Glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,’" Ginn told Fox News Digital.
Advent is a reminder to Ginn about the "real, eternal Christmas story," he noted.
"If this season of Advent teaches us anything at all, it is this. We ought never to gaze upon the manger without it being overshadowed by the cross."
"We ought never to consider the darkness of the cross unless it is silhouetted by the bright light emanating from the empty tomb," he also said.
"And we ought never to ponder the wonders of resurrection without internalizing the reality of the imminent return of Christ."
Ginn said the "real reason to celebrate the Advent of Christ's birth resonates in the sure knowledge that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will step out on the bright clouds of an eastern sky morning and break back into history at any moment."
He said, "What a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas, and more importantly, what a way to live in the absolute wonder and anticipation of Christ’s glorious return. Even so, come Lord Jesus."
Jake Bland, president of Youth for Christ (yfc.net), based in Englewood, Colorado, told Fox News Digital of Advent, "The season of Advent is a time of ‘holy expectation,’ remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting. It’s a time of looking back and looking forward," he said.
It's "a celebration of the first coming of Jesus in humility … and our hopeful awaiting of His second coming in glory," he added.
"It’s about reflecting on our own shortcomings and our need for a Savior. It’s about looking around at our broken world and understanding why we need ‘Emmanuel’ to dwell among us, reconciling all creation back to the Father, by the Spirit"
Bland noted, "It’s about celebrating the Son of God coming as a gift, not to be served — but to serve. We can’t help but respond with deep gratitude, embracing the season to serve and give to others."
Dr. Erik Thoeness, a professor at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology in Los Angeles, reflected on a verse from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).
"To understand the true meaning of Christmas," he said, "we must try to wrap our minds around the eternal divine Son of God becoming a man."
In becoming man, "Jesus willingly surrendered the continuous heavenly display and acknowledgment of his glorious divine nature," he said. "Only when the glories of heaven are finally revealed will what Jesus gave up in coming be fully understood."
This past year has been a challenge for many, noted Theoness.
The year "2023 has been filled with war, political rancor, disappointment, sickness, loss, heartache, loneliness, financial loss, conflict, frustration, anger and fear," said Thoeness.
"We have seen human depravity and the sad effects of the fall clearly on display this year."
And so "we must remember that since the fall, this cursed world has been groaning, awaiting the redemption that Christ brings."
"I’ve had a line from ‘O Holy Night’ running through my head for weeks: ‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,’" he told Fox News Digital.
Said Thoeness, "Even though we are often weary in this cursed world, we are able to be ‘sorrowful and always rejoicing’ (2 Cor 6:10) because Jesus became the 'Man of Sorrows.'"
The season of Advent "reminds us that the world needs saving and that only God can save us," he said.
"When we trust in Jesus who is Emmanuel, God with us, we will be able to enter the new year with confidence, faith and renewed hope."
Tim Spivey, vice president of spiritual life at Pepperdine University in California, told Fox News Digital that he appreciated how Advent "anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives."
"It offers both the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming," said Spivey.
"It is, in a way, a season of spiritual discipline, of centering, on what it means that God broke into human history in Jesus to begin the process of making all things new," he said.
Spivey told Fox News Digital that he drew comfort from a passage from the Book of Micah, a book of the Old Testament containing a prophecy about the birth of Jesus.
"So, during Advent, we look forward with hope to the comforting words of the prophet Micah," said Spivey, citing verses Micah 5:4-5a.
"‘He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And He shall be their peace.'"