My friends, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, but if I did so I would be early. Christmas won’t arrive until December 25th, and then by the Christian calendar it will last 12 days. We all know the popular song about the partridge in the pear tree. Twelve is one of the significant numbers in the Bible. Hence there were twelve tribes of Israel in Old Testament, and twelves disciples of Jesus in New Testament. And every year we have twelve days to wish each other a Merry Christmas – stretching from December 25th (which falls on a Sunday this year) through January 5th – which leads right up to the Epiphany on January 6th – when we celebrate the coming of the wise men from the east.
But that’s all a ways off now. Right now we are in the season of Advent, which comes with a sense of anticipation. Not everything in this life comes as quickly as we would like. Delayed gratification is seldom a trendy thing. So Advent is healthy: it teaches us patience.
In Christian teaching there are two advents:
So if you’ve ever felt like your life is chaos, today we can marvel at how God can take the worst of circumstances and turn it into best thing possible. God proved it in the First Advent. And this is something for each one of us to consider. Jesus was not just a great religious figure. He was born as a savior for all of humanity: “Born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.”
The Second Advent, likewise, will apply to everyone – and it will reveal Jesus’ divinity. Unlike the first advent, it won’t come across as some obscure event in a Middle Eastern land. Instead, it will be plain and known to all. The Bible says it will be like lightning flashing from the east to the west.
When Jesus returns, it won’t be as some obscure peasant. He won’t be subject to the oppressive conditions because He will conquer the oppressors. Satan will be bound and put away. Christ will reign. And every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.
When will this happen? We don’t know. No one knows the day or the hour. Jesus said it will come as a surprise – like a thief in the night. So we live expectantly. Each one of us could meet our maker at any moment. We live with that kind of accountability before us.
For me as little kid, Christmastime anticipation was treated as an incentive for good behavior. “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.” But Christian theology teaches us that it’s God, and not Santa Claus, who is omniscient. We have no secrets from Him. He knows us when we’re at our best, but He also knows us at our worst.
God knows our worst. But the good news is that He still loves us. And He wasn’t content to leave us in the mess that we’re in. So He sent His son into the world – and His son experienced the very worst of what the world can do to a man. He was put to a violent awful death, but He conquered death by rising from the grave. And He lives forevermore. And he’s coming back at the Second Advent. And we live expectantly. God bless you.
Andrew McHenry, Pastor
First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.