“It must be that time of year again,” the news announcer said. “People trampling each other to get bargains, atheists filing lawsuits over manger scenes and Christmas trees, and families fighting over who is hosting the family get-together this year. Ho ho ho.”
Sadly, we hear of these types of incidents so often that we just shake our heads and grumble. The season often becomes a time of bad news and bad behavior. For a Christian, however, this is a season of preparation. We are preparing to meet our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We often think of Advent only as a time of waiting for Christmas to arrive, but in the Christian Church, Advent is meant as a time to reflect on our own sinfulness and on our desperate need for a Savior. It’s a time to prepare our hearts to meet that Savior, both on Christmas—the anniversary of His birth—and when He returns as Judge and King.
We hear countless expressions of “the true meaning of Christmas.” We hear that it’s “giving,” “family time,” etc. But there is only one true meaning. It’s the day set aside by the Church to celebrate the birth of Jesus. As we prepare to celebrate that day, we also reflect on the reason God became flesh.
From the time of the Fall into sin, human beings had only one hope. God had promised that a Savior would come to set us free from sin. He made the promise first to Adam and Eve and then repeated it throughout the Old Testament. It was faith in this promise that saved Old Testament believers. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).
Many generations were born and died out, but God did not break His promise. He continued to prepare the people for the Messiah’s coming. “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31).
Finally, God sent one last man to prepare the people for their Savior: John the Baptist. His message is the message of the Christian Church during the season of Advent: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” We reflect during this season on all of the times we have disobeyed God, all of the times we have denied Him—all of the sins we have committed. We reflect on our sinfulness and we repent, trusting in God’s promise of forgiveness.
This reflection makes the celebration of Christmas all the more joyful! We don’t have to live in fear of those sins! Jesus, God-made-flesh, was born into this world for the very purpose of taking away the punishment for those sins! The relief, the lifting of that burden, the thankful heart that is free from guilt all combine as we sing “Joy to the World” on Christmas and understand fully what that hymn means! It means God loved the people of this earth with an incomprehensible love—a love that led Him to become one of us in the person of Jesus Christ. It means that the sinless Son of God was born of a humble virgin to take on human flesh in order to live the perfect life demanded of you. It means that perfect Son of God willingly allowed Himself to be mocked, falsely accused, arrested, judged guilty, and nailed to the cross for you. It means that Jesus died and rose again for you.
You are saved from eternal death in Hell through that baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. As the angels announced to the shepherds on the first Christmas, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
As we continue through this Advent season, we reflect on our need for a Savior, looking ahead with joy to the celebration of Jesus’ birth and looking ahead with anticipation to Jesus’ return. Jesus is the reason.-Rev. Paul Fries