Advent Devotional | Introduction

“What is your flight arrival time?” I spent part of today arranging to meet a Langham colleague from Africa who will be landing in Heathrow. The point of the planning and the hope that goes with it is that she will land “at the appointed time,” and, when that time comes, I will head to Heathrow for a meeting at the airport, welcome her, and accompany her on the last miles of her journey to our home. She is coming to where we live; she will not be turning round to take me back to where she lives.

Paul has a similar image for the “appointed time” for Christ’s second coming—only on infinitely grander scale—in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17. When a Roman emperor or provincial governor arrived with great fanfare to visit a city, the civic dignitaries would go out for a meeting with him as he approached and accompany him into their city. Believers who are alive when the “appointed time” comes will do the same: we will meet and welcome Jesus back, forever, as the returning king of His eternal new creation.

That is the glorious Advent hope which fills our hearts and worship in these weeks before we celebrate Christ’s first coming. And its “appointed time” is known only to God; we are not to waste time guessing its ETA but to be prepared at all times. And there will be no flight delays, strikes, or bad weather! But it is the second “appointed time.”

In this book, we will be looking mainly at the first “appointed time,” that is the vision and hopes of Old Testament Israel that God Himself would come. They needed Him to come, what with the nation and the world in such a mess. God must come to the rescue of His human race and His created order! And, in their prophetic sights, they knew and proclaimed that He would. As indeed He did, in the incarnation of God the Son in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.

Psalm 102 has an interesting angle on all this. It begins with a long, heart-rending cry for help from one who is suffering greatly (vs. 1–11). He badly needs God to come for himself: “Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly” (v. 2). This is a very personal plea. And there are plenty of those in the Psalms, recorded there for our use and encouragement in such times. Perhaps Psalm 102:1–11 speaks for you this Advent.

But when the Psalmist contemplates the moment when God will sit up and act, his horizon broadens out far wider than his own needs. When God’s “appointed time” comes, it will be to restore His own people (“Zion”) and to extend His glory among all nations and peoples. It is a remarkably missionary vision and prayer.

You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come.
For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity.
The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere
your glory.

The New Testament sees the beginning of the fulfilment of this vision. As Paul says, when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4–5). Or again, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

But as we look forward from that first appointed time to the second, “when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord” (Psalm 102:22), it is most appropriate that the devotions that follow come from all around the world, reflecting the global reach of Langham Partnership’s own vision and ministries.

I look forward to meeting my friend at Heathrow “at the appointed time” (I hope!). Let us all look forward even more eagerly to meeting our Lord when He comes at His “appointed time.”

Chris Wright

Rev. Dr Chris Wright
Global Ambassador and Ministry Director
Langham Partnership