Our church has started a new tradition this year, lighting an Advent wreath to help us mark the Christmas season. The Advent wreath, though, is more than a few colorful candles. The wreath helps us look back to Christ’s first coming even as we eagerly anticipate His second.
We are very familiar with the coming of Jesus as a baby. Most in America know about Mary and Joseph, the manager, the shepherds and angels. We get that part of the story. But do we really get it?
The moment Jesus was born, he was headed to the cross. Christ came as the God-man as a part of the Father’s plan to save mankind from their sins, to impute His righteousness, and to restore fellowship between creation and its Creator. The prophet Isaiah explains just how Jesus would accomplish this mission:
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
We celebrate the first coming of Christ because it inaugurated the kingdom of God, it was the fulfillment of years of Messianic prophecy. We celebrate because by his wounds, we are healed.
We look to the second coming of Christ, then, because it will consummate the kingdom. Christians live in what’s known as the “already, not yet” tension. Already the kingdom of God has been established, not yet is the world as it should be. But one day, it will be. And that coming will be brighter than ten thousand Advent wreaths. As you enjoy the warmth of the Christmas season (and you should!) don’t get too comfortable. Don’t settle just looking back, look ahead. Look ahead and work hard. The best is yet to come.