It is December, a time when we are reminded to focus on the Advent, or coming, of our Lord Jesus Christ. While traditional celebratory activities generally dominate the landscape of our days, believers understand that Christmas is all about Christ.
But just what does it mean to focus on Christ during this season of Advent? Some Christians admonish us to keep Christmas in perspective, that Easter is the really important Christian holy day. Others would remind us that we need to be looking for Christ’s second Advent, when He comes to initiate His kingdom. Both of these perspectives have merit: Christ’s coming is in fact culminated by His death on the cross on our behalf. And even while Christ was on earth as God incarnate, He admonished His followers to be prepared and watchful for His return.
Any consideration of Christ’s birth would benefit from the inclusion of Easter and His return. But the more I consider Christ as God incarnate, the more I believe that there is plenty to ponder in the incarnation. Beyond the mystery of the event itself is the reality that Jesus Christ, our Creator, walked among us as God and man. Can we imagine His joy at experiencing His glorious earth, or the agony of seeing what His creatures have done to it and to one another? His mission was to proclaim the kingdom of God and to call men unto Himself for eternal relationship and glory. In doing so, He demonstrated the love, grace, mercy, and power of our God. It seems to me that He must have felt both incredible sorrow and enormous satisfaction in straightening one of His creatures who had been twisted by sin. His abhorrence of death was highlighted by His raising to life a few who had died. But even as He wielded His redemptive power, He knew His miracles were only temporal.
Without minimizing the horror of the cross, I would like to suggest that Jesus’s time on earth as God incarnate before the crucifixion also consisted of enormous suffering. As He walked among us, He could not escape seeing the destructive wages of sin. His creatures bloodied and broken, sick and dying. All creation groaning. And any relief that He would provide, while satisfying, was only a down payment for the future. As we deal with our own sin and suffering during the celebratory Christmas season, it might be constructive to resist jumping ahead to Easter and/or the second coming of Christ. We would do well to consider that Jesus hates our suffering more than we do—He knows what we’ve lost; we can only imagine a life without sin and the fall. And then we get to what scholars sometimes describe as the “now and not yet.” Jesus has come; He has made us His own; He has promised to complete the work He began in us and to bring us to heaven as heirs of the Father. But the trumpet has not yet sounded. We remain fallen people in a fallen world. As we wait for the culmination of the kingdom of Christ, may we take comfort and joy that our Lord and Redeemer is waiting alongside us.