I delivered this devotional at the Christian Marketplace Network luncheon on Friday, December 11, 2009.
We say weâ€™re in the Christmas season, but for most Christians around the world, Christmas hasnâ€™t started yet. This is the Advent season, when we prepare for Christmas. The word â€œadventâ€ means â€œthe coming of something.â€ Specifically, we look for the coming of two events.
First, we go back in time and look forward to the birth of the Messiah. Israel waited centuries for the Messiah, while Mary awaited the Messiahâ€™s birth at any moment. Biblical scholars tell us that Jesus was probably born in the spring, not in December, but canâ€™t imagine Mary in this final month of pregnancy? She was physically ready for Jesusâ€™s birth. More importantly, she was spiritually ready for the Messiah to save Israel.
Secondly, Advent also looks forward to the second coming. We live in a time of â€œalready, but not yetâ€ – Jesus has already died for our sins and risen to give us new life, but we have not yet seen Godâ€™s kingdom established on earth.
December is a hard month. Weâ€™re supposed to be celebrating; at the same time, we canâ€™t help but think about our loved ones who arenâ€™t with us this year, about the people in our community who donâ€™t have enough food or money, about people around the world who lack basic necessities. We are singing great Christmas songs along with Star 93.3. At the same time, we are groaning prayers of hope.
The prophet Isaiah knew this paradox very well. For years, he had warned Judah that their sins were going to lead to destruction. When that destruction was almost upon them, though, God gave Isaiah a message of hope that we still hear today. In Chapter 40 ,Isaiah delivers the words that we know so well from the ministry of John the Baptist, announcing the arrival of the Messiah.
A voice cries,
â€œIn the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.â€
We see the glory of the Lord revealed in the infant Jesus, and we await the glory of the Lord to be revealed in full when Jesus returns. And so, this Christmas we pray, with Israel and the early church, â€œCome, Lord.â€
Your fellow “Advent”-urer and Christ-follower, Tom