Friday, December 25, 2009

Advent Thoughts

It's Christmas Day, and I'll admit, I'm a little sad. I have always loved the anticipation of things--birthdays, vacations, holidays, parties--almost as much as the thing itself. And so it is with Christmas. As a little girl, I would lie awake in bed for weeks before Christmas, imaging the fun times with family and the many gifts under the tree. I would count down from at least a hundred days to the day, driving my mom crazy. And then Christmas would come. It would be glorious, of course, everything I imagined it to be and more. But then it would be over so quickly and I would feel sort of empty. I loved that anxious feeling, the beforehand waiting, the most. I guess that's why I love Advent.

And now it's over. Taylor and I packed up our presents and brought them upstairs. In a couple of days I'll pack up my suitcase and go home. When I get back to Bethel, I'll pack up my Christmas decorations and put them away. And this sweetness, this waiting for Jesus to come, it seems I'll have to pack it up as well.

But the beauty of Advent is that it not only celebrates Christ's coming to us in a manger, but anticipates His coming to us in undeniable glory. That anticipation, that waiting, does not have to be packed up with the Christmas ornaments. And when the Day finally arrives, it will not pale in comparison to my anxious waiting for it, as Christmas sometimes does.

What I have loved this Advent is learning to relate to God as the One Who Comes. It wasn't just in that Bethlehem stall that God revealed Himself as Immanuel--no!--He has been Immanuel for all of eternity past. He is the God who is present with His people.

In fact, it's the pillar of cloud, again, that reminds us of God's ever-present-ness with the Israelites. It was the cloud by day and the fire by night, the Shekinah, Hebrew for "dwelling," that reminded God's people of His care for them and directed them where they should go (Numbers 9). God came to Moses in the burning bush. He spoke to Abraham. He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He said to Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." God with us. Not just beginning with Jesus, but from the beginning of creation.

In Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, John MacArthur writes, "You see, God only whispers in His creation. He revealed a shadow of His glory in the Shekinah. But He speaks with absolute clarity in His Word. 'God...spoke' (Hebrews 1:1), and not in a whisper, but in full voice. Still, there was an incompleteness in it all until, '[God] has in these last days spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:2).

"Now that is God shouting. You can't mistake it. Christ is God, and you see every attribute of God manifest in him. His judgment, his justice, his love, his wisdom, his power, his omniscience. It's all there in person as we see Him walk through the world, working his work, living his life. The fullness of God may be seen as it was never seen before in Jesus Christ."

And this is the One we call Immanuel, who saw fit to leave his heavenly dwelling and make his home among us, visibly and personally. This is the Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas: the coming of the One of whom the prophet Zechariah said, "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD" (Zechariah 2:10). He is the one
who enables the psalmist to declare,
"say to those with fearful hearts,
"Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you" (Psalm 35:4).

But there is more! The One who came to us then, and who made himself continually present by imparting the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of believers (John 14:26), is also the One who will come again! Revelation 21:1-8, one of the Advent Scriptures, gives us a beautiful description of what will happen on that Day:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"

And so our Jesus, the supreme expression of God with us, will come and dwell among us fully and finally. He will make everything new and--the most encouraging thing to me this first Christmas after Grandma Russell's death--will do away with the affects of sin, all pain and death and mourning. Glory! This is the holy paradox: our God has come...and He is coming to reign forevermore!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Love this Chels. Love how you remind me that God is coming again, yet even while we wait, he continues to show up! How blessed are we?!?! I miss you and love reading your blog because it's like a piece of you! Talk soon!