The various traditions of historic Christianity celebrate the Advent season, also called Christmas. "Advent" means "coming" and Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ's first coming into the world in order to rescue sinners from God's inevitable just wrath. For those churches that follow what is called a traditional Christian calendar, the church year is a cycle that celebrates again and again the great events in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The calendar begins, of course, with Jesus' birth (Advent). From there it focuses on the events in Jesus' public ministry, including his official entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday). This type of almanac places special emphasis upon the events of Holy Week: his Last Supper (Maundy Thursday), his death on the cross (Good Friday), and Jesus' glorious bodily resurrection from the grave (Easter Sunday). The biblical principle behind the Christian calendar year is that Christ's church finds its identity in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord and Savior. The believer's life is now wrapped up in the life of Christ. Therefore, part of the church's purpose is to commemorate the glorious events of Jesus' life on Earth.
The Advent season is my favorite time of the year for three reasons.
1. I love what Christmas reminds me about my faith.
Christmas is about celebrating the great truth about the Incarnation (God has come in the flesh). The baby of Bethlehem was Immanuel ("God with us"). Christmas commemorates the truth that the second person of the Godhead, the eternal Word and Son, left his lofty estate of heaven and entered the world of time and space and became man. As the Apostle John notes: "The Word has become flesh and pitched his tent among us" (John 1:14).
Christmas, therefore, reminds me of the logical order of my faith:
The triune nature of God makes the Incarnation possible. God's three-in-oneness (one What and three Whos) makes it possible for the second divine person to take a human nature and become the God-man.
The Incarnation makes the atonement and resurrection possible. Because Jesus is both God and man (a single person with both a divine and a human nature), he is able to serve as the Redeemer of lost sinners by representing and reconciling both parties (holy God and sinful man). And because our Savior is the God-man, even death cannot hold him (thus, resurrection power and victory over sin, death, and hell).
The Advent season, therefore, consistently reminds me of the great doctrines of my faith including the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the Resurrection.
2. I love what Christmas reminds me about my culture.
As an American citizen, my nation—and broader culture, by-and-large—celebrates the Christmas season together. I see it in the Christmas decorations and in the general celebratory mood of society. Yes, it often suffers from crass commercialization, but it is still evident that America has been deeply shaped by the truths of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. I consider myself blessed to be part of Western civilization with its deep indebtedness to the Christian world-and-life view. The Christmas season reminds even the post-Christian European culture of its powerful theological and moral foundations that find their roots in historic Christianity.
3. I love what Christmas reminds me about my family.
The Advent season reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for in terms of family. I had caring parents. In fact, I'm especially grateful that my father survived the great and terrible World War II engagement known as the Battle of the Bulge, fought in Europe during Christmas of 1944. (It was the coldest winter in Europe in 100 years.)
Many of my happiest childhood memories are connected to the Christmas season. The thrill of decorating the tree, the giving and receiving of gifts, celebrating with family, and attending church on Christmas Eve.
I also have a loving and devoted spouse. And I have three children that fill my life with love and satisfaction. Nothing I have accomplished professionally has been as fulfilling as being a husband and a father. Over the years, my wife and I have taken great pleasure in the utter joy that our children experience during Christmas, especially when they were very young. Our children could feel the Christmas spirit in the air and they could hardly sleep a wink on Christmas Eve anticipating the events of the morning.
When I was gravely ill six years ago just before the start of the Advent season, I asked God to let me see another Christmas with my family. I tend to count the years of my life according to the number of Advent seasons the Lord's grace has allowed me to enjoy. As a Christian believer, I have found the true meaning of my life by seeing my life wrapped in Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection.
The Apostle Paul states in Colossians 3:3–4, "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
As my favorite Christmas carol extols: "Joy to the world! The Lord is come!"
Happy Advent Season!