As an adult I have grown to love the season of Advent, a time to focus on the coming of Christ and the amazing gift we received that day. I'll admit that too many years have gone by where I was caught up in the busy-ness of the Christmas season, and I didn't put any effort toward specific anticipation of that day. This year, I've promised myself, will be different. My church is in the middle of The Story campaign, an approach to the Bible that looks at The Upper Story (God's story) and The Lower Story (the people's story) and how God brought the two together. Jesus Christ -- God in human flesh -- is the truth revealed. Life only makes sense in light of His coming.
One of the greatest revelations of God's heart is John 3:16 -- "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son what whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." Our pastor reminded us recently that, as we celebrate God's love this Christmastime, we want to focus on the first part of the verse that talks about God's love and His gift. He loves. He gives. As the above verse so beautifully makes known, that is the theme of God's heart. We can read story after story of God's interaction with people in the Bible: Adam and Eve, Noah, the Israelites, King David and Bathsheba...God consistently loved each of these sinners and gave them a way to life. Time after time, person after person, God loves. God gives.
Christ's life -- from birth to resurrection -- is central to all of history. Jesus is the focal point of all Creation and time. God didn't come up with the idea of Christ as Savior after trying to deal with people for a couple thousand years. The gift of Christ was real and present first because God loves. Because God gives.
So this year I've started the Advent season with specific devotionals and readings that will lead me through the next couple of weeks pondering the themes of hope, love, joy, peace, and finally the celebration of Christ's birth. I encourage you to do something similar, whether it's specific Bible or devotional readings or something impromptu that you do yourself everyday: singing Christmas carols, lighting candles, reading the nativity story, or performing intentional acts of kindness that make giving very real to someone in need. Let's not forget the importance of that life-changing yet simple first Christmas. Let's attend to Christ's birth with the reverence it is due.
"The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.'"