We are well into December, a month many of us look forward to. It could be that holiday you have been planning for months, or the slower pace of work in the office. Perhaps it is the gatherings with family and friends, which no doubt call for some Christmas gift shopping. As you shop, you may notice some products packaged as Advent Calendars. Typically, these Advent Calendars contain multiple products or samples for you to open one per day as you count down to Christmas. But what is advent, and why is it commonly associated with Christmas?
The word advent means coming or arrival, and it is usually used to describe the coming of something significant (e.g., the advent of colour television). In the case of Advent Calendars, the significant event that is worth anticipating and counting down to is Christmas! For non-believers, there are probably a myriad of reasons why that is so. For Christians, there should only be one ultimate reason why Christmas is worth our anticipation — the birth and coming of Jesus Christ.
At one level, just the identity of Jesus is enough to make his birth significant. In Luke 1, Gabriel tells the virgin Mary that Jesus will be called the Son of the Most High and the Son of God. Among the billions of human births that have happened across the entirety of history, the birth of Jesus remains singularly unique and noteworthy as the moment the creator God became flesh and dwelt among His creation, making known God’s glory (John 1:14).
At a deeper level, Jesus being born on earth is significant because of what He came to do. And interestingly enough, that was to die. Not at a ripe old age after a peaceful life mind you, for “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). Although Jesus was like a lamb led to slaughter, He willingly and silently walked towards a shameful, painful death on the cross to be the passover Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). By His death and resurrection, Jesus crushed the serpent from Eden that is Satan (Genesis 3:15) and delivered us from the domain of darkness into His eternal kingdom.
It is no wonder that a candle lit up in the dark is an enduring image of Advent; it is a visual reminder of the hope brought about by Jesus' coming. We were dead in our sin and by nature children of wrath. But because Jesus became flesh and died on the cross, we have a bright hope of salvation. To all who receive and believe in Jesus’ name, He has given the right to become children of the true and living God (John 1:12).
But the good news does not stop there. The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago is just Part One. Part two is that Jesus will come again! At His second coming, Jesus will complete the work of redemption that He started at his first coming and usher in a new creation where death, pain and tears will be no more. Meanwhile, He goes to prepare a place for us, and when Jesus comes again He will take us to be with Him in this new creation.
In the meantime, we wait, just like the Old Testament prophets who waited and looked forward to the coming of the promised Saviour King Jesus. So, while we celebrate Christmas and recapture that sense of joy of Jesus being born, let us also anticipate and eagerly count down to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
We are well into December, a month associated with festivities and merrymaking. But we live in a creation not yet fully redeemed. Some of us may be going through difficult times at home, work or school. Despite Singapore’s tropical climate, this month may seem like a dark and cold winter. But as we approach Christmas this year, let us remember why it is the season of advent. For it is a time to remember the joyous moment when God became flesh, and through his death graciously offered us the hope of salvation. And Christmas is also a time to count down to the return of our Saviour, who assures us that He is coming soon (Rev 22: 7,12,20).
This Christmas, may we echo John’s response in Rev 22:20 and say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
- Deacon Samuel Chan