For most of us, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a season of hustle and bustle. Our calendars usually filled up with scheduled family visits, parties, special church services, and a host of other seasonal happenings. (Since it is Christmas Day today, you're probably enjoying some of those event now!) Yet, in the midst of all of these activities it is easy for us to get so wrapped up in our calendar appointments that we forget to place sustained focus on the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. This is not to say that there should not be time for family and friends during this season; rather, it is simply a recognition that we can easily become so overwhelmed with our “obligations” that we miss a great opportunity to meditate on one of the most important events in human history: the first coming of God’s Son. Yet, this problem is not unique to our particular stage in world history; Christians have always faced the temptation to focus more on the here-and-now than on the One who transcends all time. In order to combat these temptations and to help focus on the gospel, Christians throughout the history of the Church have chosen to order their time around different seasons, beginning with Advent and ending with Easter and Pentecost. Advent (which means “coming” or “arrival”) marks the beginning of the Christian Year in which we celebrate the first coming of Jesus and look forward to His second coming. As we focus on these two “comings” of Jesus, we are encouraged to participate in both reflection and anticipation.
First, Advent is marked by reflection as we look back upon the progress of redemption. We are encouraged to remember the promise of a righteous “seed” that was given in the garden of Eden after Adam sinned (Genesis 3:15). We remember the covenant made with Abraham in which he was given a promise of an innumerable offspring. We look back to the exodus of God’s people from slavery out of Egypt. We remember Israel’s desire for a King who would reign with righteousness and strength to deliver and sustain His people. We read the prophecies of Isaiah, foretelling the Messiah who would bring peace and justice. And at last, we are able to reflect upon the Messiah—Jesus—who came and dwelt among us. As we reflect upon and celebrate his incarnation, we get to share in the rejoicing of those that saw Him arrive. We share in the joy of the world, the glory of the angels’ message, and the wonder of the shepherds as they heard the good news.
Second, Advent reminds us that our faith is founded on not only what Jesus did in the past, but also what He will do in the future. As Christians, we should forward to Christ’s second coming when we will see our King coming in glory and power. We will finally be able to see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13) and our salvation will be complete! Yet, His second coming will also bring judgment on the world that has rejected Him. So our celebration is mixed with sobriety. Those of us who bear the name of “Christian” should not only praise God
for our salvation, but we must also be His witnesses and pray for a world that has yet to embrace Him.