As a young girl growing up in the Catholic church, the liturgical calendar ordered my life. The seasons of the church calendar were designed to lead us back to the centrality of the Gospel--Jesus Christ. Scripture readings, hymns, prayers, and vestment colors reflected the church's liturgical order. My favorite season was Advent. The almost life-size creche told the Christmas story in 3D. The music was indescribably beautiful, and Christmas Eve reminded us once again of that most Holy Night in Bethlehem. To this day I can picture that beautiful sanctuary.
According to Dennis Bratcher of the Christian Resource Institute, Advent is the season of expectant waiting--the season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in His First Advent and anticipate the return of Christ the King in His Second Advent. So why is this relevant to an evangelical believer living in the 21st century? Because Christmas is Jesus. The entire day is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. (Luke 1-2:21.)
Just as we prepare to celebrate a friend or family member's birthday, we must prepare to honor Jesus on His birthday--which doesn't come naturally. In ARRIVAL, a series of Advent meditations, Billy Graham encourages us to reflect on this great truth during Advent: God became a man! He did it because He loves us. (John 1:14) What a great cause for celebration. Applying the following biblical truths during the Advent season will make our hearts and minds ready.
Week One, read Isaiah 9:6 and learn the 5 awe-inspiring names of Jesus. Then ask, how has Jesus shown me recently that He is "Wonderful, Counselor...the Prince of Peace"? During the second week of Advent, get a glimpse of Mary and Joseph before Jesus was born in Matthew 1:19-21. Put yourself in their place. Then ask, am I actively responding to God's call on my life? During week three, follow the example of the angels who announced the birth of Christ to shepherds outside Bethlehem. (Luke 2:8-10) Who do I know that needs to hear about God's love and forgiveness? Am I bold enough to bring good news?
And finally, from Dec. 23 until Christmas Eve, read Luke 2:11, 13-14.
"The greatest sermon ever preached was delivered by angels on this historic night," Graham writes. "It wasn't night because the sun had gone down. It was night because the world was surrounded in spiritual and moral gloom....Things haven't changed....It is in the darkest hour that Christ often comes. He brings the joy, the thrill, the peace, and the glory such as [we] have never known."
Christmas is all about Jesus coming--and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. As a little girl, I looked forward to seeing the Baby Jesus in the manger of the gigantic creche on Christmas Eve. When my family arrived at the midnight service, the expectant waiting of Advent was fulfilled, the manger was full. Celebrating the Gospel truth that Jesus has come as Messiah and that He will come again as King of Kings is the message of Christmas. Join me this Advent season in making Christmas what it should be: a joyous celebration of Christ's birth that enriches our hearts and equips us to bring good news to the world around us.