Christmas is upon us! The traditional Christian calendar observes what we call “the season of Advent.” I’d like to reflect on the goodness of the season of Advent by sharing a Christmas quip and a Christmas quest.
A Christmas Quip
In the spirit of the jolly season (qualifier: I’m being sarcastic 😜), let me jump right to a quip I have with historic Christianity. Here it is: December 25th is more than likely not when Jesus was born. Apparently, around 200 A.D. in church history, church leaders were interested in identifying when Jesus was born. In short, they decided on the winter solstice–the shortest day with the least amount of sunlight on the calendar. The motive was symbolic. The winter solstice symbolized Jesus coming as a small light in babe form and growing ever brighter.
Now, hear me clearly. I completely agree with the symbolism. But I am frustrated at the choice of date.
The best argument I’ve heard for an actual birth date is that it had to be a warmer season. Why? Luke’s gospel records in chapter 2 that the shepherds were tending their sheep outside at night when the angels appeared and announced Christ’s birth. Meaning, it was warm enough to be comfortably sleeping outside overnight.
Here’s the point. Does December 25th negate the historical birth of Jesus? Certainly not. There is nevertheless a goodness to choosing December 25th as the date for Christmas on the Christian calendar. It forces us to remember the true meaning of Christmas. This brings us to “the season of Advent” and our Christmas quest.
A Christmas Quest
The dictionary defines “advent” as “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” For Christians, Advent specifically refers to the coming of Jesus. And the “season of Advent” refers to a time of reflection on Jesus’ coming during the four Sundays preceding Christmas day.
At the heart of Christian Advent is a searching and waiting on Christ’s arrival on earth into history. The gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth all have an atmosphere of expectation and quest. Here’s one example:
5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Israel was on a quest. They were waiting and searching in expectation for their Messiah, their Christ.
The Church believes that Jesus did come and satisfy Israel’s quest and waiting. This is why we sing,
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing!
So, Church, rejoice greatly that Christ has come. He came to reverse the curse. He came to die for your sins on the cross. He has sealed your atonement by defeating sin and death through his resurrection. And he has ascended to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father.
But there’s a twist…
The season of Advent still continues. The Christmas quest continues. How, you say? Because we wait and expect Jesus’ second Advent. He ascended into heaven only to return one day to bring all of history and creation to consummate redemption. He will bring every soul to account. He will welcome those who have placed faith in him for the forgiveness of sins as adopted sons and daughters into his eternal Kingdom to share his glory.
So enjoy this season of Advent as an opportunity to reflect on Christ and how he has fulfilled and will fulfill all our longings.