This Advent, as we wait for the true light who is coming into the world (John 1:9) we pause and reflect on our Christmas hope. As a friend said last night, we do not linger forever in uncertainty but as an expectant mother who labors in anticipation of the joy her child will surely bring.
Our assurance of salvation — past, present, and future — depends on the unique person of Jesus Christ and our relationship to him, and there's perhaps nothing more central to Jesus and our relationship with him than that he became flesh, was made like us in every respect (Heb. 2:17), so that by grace we might become partakers of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
This isn't something the church merely teaches but an event of history, revealed for all men and women in the one-of-a-kind person Jesus is, the human and divine Son of God. From the moment of Christ's conception, eternity himself inhabits time so that events of his life on earth long since past are forever present to us in Jesus. This is one reason our joy at Christmas is so palpable and real ... when we worship Jesus at Christmas, we are once again with Mary and Joseph on that cold, dark night as they swaddle “he who made the starry skies” and lay him in a manger.
Worship is the only sane and appropriate response to the beautiful reality and presence of the Incarnation. Before it's about anything else Christmas is about falling to our knees around that feed trough, crying out with shepherds, angels, and all creation, Glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:14). If in the bustle and grind since Thanksgiving you've forgotten that Christmas is about worship remember, with Luther, that in Jesus Christ God sunk himself into our flesh.
Ponder his awe-inspiring humility, freely offered by Jesus for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), sharing our frailty and contingency that we might share in his eternal glory and permanence, a glory and permanence based not on worldly notions of rule, economy, prestige, intelligence, know-how, genetics, or the sword but on Self-Sacrificial Love.
Self-Sacrifical Love is the foundation and meaning, the beginning and end, of the world. There is no power, no darkness, no faithlessness, no despair, no pain, and no terror that can undo its victory or replace its glory or outlast Christ's relentless, unfathomable humility.
Put simply: Jesus rules!
He ruled in the Beginning, he rules NOW and his rule will never end. Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave (Revelation 1:8).
Let's be the people of his Advent ... let's marry the purpose of his first coming to anticipation of his glorious second coming, sweep clean the chambers of our hearts, fill our lamps with oil, don our wedding garments, and join — right now, wherever we are are — his ongoing mission to shed light on those that sit in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79). He is the Life that gives inner light to all persons. We are his bearers of that light in the world until he comes again. Share his life and light.
The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Mich.
Photo: Advent candles, week 2, ©