As the song goes “Christmas time is here.” People are busy shopping, baking, and reliving their special Yuletide traditions. For many churches, the Christmas traditions include Advent ceremonies.
Advent, which means “coming,” is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s first coming into the world to rescue sinners from God’s inevitable just wrath and the anticipation of his hoped for second coming. For congregations that follow a traditional Christian calendar, the church year is a cycle that celebrates the great events in Jesus’ life. Because the believer’s life is now wrapped up in Christ’s life, part of the church’s purpose is to commemorate the glorious events of Jesus Christ’s time on Earth.
One of the most recognizable features of Advent is the traditional wreath and candles. To commemorate each of the four Sundays of Advent, churches light a candle in the wreath, culminating with a special Christmas candle. At my church, Advent also includes special readings from Scripture and carol singing.
Many people, believers and nonbelievers alike, cite Christmas as their favorite time of year. I’m no exception. I look forward to Christmas, or Advent, 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 became flesh and made his dwelling 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 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 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.
My happiest childhood memories are mostly connected to the Christmas season. The thrill of decorating the Christmas tree, the giving and receiving of gifts, celebrating with family, and attending church on Christmas Eve. My wife and I have taken great enjoyment in the utter joy that our children experience during Christmas, especially when they were very young. Our children could feel the holiday spirit in the air and they could hardly sleep a wink on Christmas Eve anticipating the morning’s events.
The Advent season clearly reminds me 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 Battle of the Bulge, fought in Europe during the Christmas season of 1944. It was the coldest winter in Europe in 100 years.
I also have a loving and devoted wife, and three children that fill my life with love and satisfaction. None of my professional accomplishments have been as fulfilling as my roles as husband and father.
When I was gravely ill eight years ago just before the start of the Advent season, I asked God to let me see just one more 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, I’ve found the true meaning of my life by seeing my life wrapped in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. As 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.”
The Advent season calls us all to remember when Christ first appeared on Earth and to rejoice. As my favorite Christmas carol extols, “Joy to the world the Lord is come!”
Merry Christmas and a Happy Advent Season!