by Krista Daniel, Resident Mentor
Every Christmas I’m always taken in by the magic of the season. I love the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and the excitement that builds with every passing day. I love the colder weather (which down South could mean its 65 degrees, but hey, we’ll take what we can get) and the traditions that surround the holiday.
But over the past few years, I’ve noticed that most of the things that I look forward to during the season really have nothing to do with Christmas at all.
White elephant gift exchanges, decorating the Christmas tree, and even time with family have nothing to do with December 25th.
The day that God came.
The day that everything changed.
You see, before the coming of Christ, the world was in a constant state of waiting.
In Genesis 3:15, after the despair of man’s shattered relationship with God through the Fall, God offered what only He could give–hope of One to come who would be greater than death, sin, and Satan. One that would end the suffering that now entangled itself with every part of this world–even the start of new life.
Many years later, God would call a man named Abram to follow Him and offer him a promise–that He would make Abram a great nation (Gen 12:1-3) and that through His line all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 22:18).
And a great nation did come. Incubated in Egypt and then led out by God Himself, the nation of Israel continued to cling to the rest of the promise of God. Although God led His people, there was still an unbridgeable chasm between them.
The never-ending cycle of sin and judgement hung over the people, only to be covered temporarily by the death of an animal in the place of the sinner. The message was clear–total holiness, the standard of a relationship with God, could not be reached. Once a year, on behalf of the people, the High Priest would offer sacrifice and go into the Holy Place to make atonement for the nation (Lev 16).
Year after year, sin after sin, death after death, the people waited.
Many more years passed and God made another promise to David, the king of Israel. One would come through his line to bring hope and set up an eternal kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-17). Things will be made right forever under the rule of this King.
So the waiting continued.
For hundreds of years God’s chosen people clung to the hope of this Messiah–the Savior, the One to come.
Often in their waiting, Israel would turn its back on God and pursue idols, resulting in times of judgement and captivity for the nation. But no matter how dark the times would be, or how terribly the nation rebelled against God, He held true to His promises and offered the same Hope.
“Come back to me. He is coming. Hope will come.”
Through sending prophets, God would share His message again and give greater glimpses at this Messiah who would restore the people’s relationship with God.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. -Isaiah 7:14
Born of a virgin? How could this be? What would this Immanuel be like?
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. –Isaiah 9:6-7
God would bring Messiah through a woman and set Him up as Ruler. But from where?
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace. – Micah 5:2-5
He will lead. He will bring peace. But how will they know when He is to come?
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. -Malachi 3:1
God shares that a messenger will come before the Messiah–that is what His people should look for. But then, with the close of the writings of the prophet Malachi, God fell silent.
For four hundred years, no word came from heaven.
For four hundred years, the world changed.
And for four hundred years, God’s people waited.
But only silence.
Until one day the God sent the angel Gabriel to a man named Zechariah to tell him that he would have a son– a son that God would use to prepare the people for the Messiah.
Around a year later, the cries of an anguished woman in labor broke the silence of a quiet but full night in Bethlehem.
A woman that was a virgin.
The irony of it all–this woman, sentenced at the Fall to have pain in bearing children was giving birth the One who would end the curse. Her pangs of labor pushed the Savior out into the world, and with his first cry, air would fill the tiny lungs of the One who had spoken the universe into existence. Now born, the final Sacrifice was surrounded by the very cattle that had for so long been slain in His absence.
God with us.
And this season, I want to remember that. Although I love the man-made magic that comes with trees and lights and traditions, I don’t want my anticipation to build because of these things.
Because the truth is that the wait is over.
That is why I want to be excited.
God has come.