Celebration and Anticipation

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year.  Celebrating the birth of Jesus means celebrating the inexplicable fact that the God who created everything that exists became a human being (John 1:1-14), one who knows the pain of being human from the inside (Hebrews 4:14-16).  It means celebrating the fact that God has made hope (Romans 15:13; Hebrews 6:16-20), peace (Romans 5:1-11; Ephesians 2:11-18), joy (Isaiah 51:3; Luke 2:9-11; John 16:20-22; Galatians 5:22-23), and love (John 3:16; Romans 5:5; Galatians 2:19-20; Ephesians 3:14-19) available to us.  We can live forgiven and free, knowing that Christ has paid the penalty for our sin and has set us free from its destructive power (Romans 6:15-23; 8:1-11; Hebrews 5:1-10; 7:11-28).

 

Indeed, the benefits of Christ’s advent are not merely for the past (Romans 8:12-39).  Because Christ came, the Spirit has also come (John 14:15-27; 16:7-15), facilitating our adoption into God’s family and transferring us to the realm of God’s authority (Galatians 3:26-4:7; 5:13-26).  We experience the love of God in every circumstance, and the Spirit of God is particularly present in our suffering.  In other words, we never walk alone.  The God who created all things, who gave His one and only Son for our rescue, and who knows our suffering even better than we do is walking with us.  In fact, sometimes He carries us!

 

But Revelation 21:1-22:5 also reminds us that there is more to come.  To put it another  way, Christmas is not just about celebration; it is about anticipation.

 

We need this note of hope. Things are not as they ought to be.  This morning, children around the world woke up without any food, much less a gift to remind them that someone loves them and wants them to be happy.  Today, Ukrainian believers wonder whether their American brothers and sisters will abandon them in the face of Russian aggression, and Russian Christians wonder how they can be faithful to Christ, and repair their relationship with their Ukrainian siblings, as they live under an oppressive, nationalistic regime.  Ethnic and religious minorities in China, Myanmar, India, and elsewhere wonder how they will ever be free and when their suffering will end.

 

And it is not just “other people” who need the forward-looking perspective of Scripture.  Even in the richest, most technologically advanced country in the world, children still die of cancer.  Violence, addiction, and depravity still deprive young men and women of their dreams, their dignity, and sometimes their lives.  Poverty, discrimination, polarization, loneliness, and a host of other maladies sicken our body politic.

 

But God has acted decisively and miraculously on humanity’s behalf in the past, and God will do so again in the future.  Those who have celebrated God’s first advent will share in His second, experiencing God’s immediate, transformative, healing, and comforting presence.  Those who have walked with Christ will do so even more closely, reigning with him as he obliterates sin and death and comforts all who have suffered.  Those who have submitted their lives and their wills to the Holy Spirit will find that they have been set free to live as God always intended them to live, experiencing a love, a joy, and a peace that can now scarcely be imagined.

 

Merry Christmas from B. H. Carroll Theological Seminary.  We pray that you will revel in all that God has done for us, but we also pray that you will dare to dream of all that is to come.

 

Celebration and Anticipation.

Published: Dec 25, 2023

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