(Advent begins today – 4 weeks/4 Sundays prior to Christmas. It is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ – preparing our own hearts to welcome Him into our lives. For me, this is the 51th year I have remembered and celebrated the season of Advent. I did not grow up in a congregation that celebrated Advent. It was in the Fall of ’73 I heard a series of sermons that referenced Advent, and it was so eye-opening and convincing that it has been part of my life since 1973. That’s at least over 204 Sunday Advent sermons and 1,428 lessons that God has used in my own life to shape my convictions about the coming of Christ into my life and our world.)
Celebrating the Joy and Mystery of Advent “You Cannot Tell the End from the Beginning” December 1, 2023
If you had happened upon the birth of Jesus that night without any of the special news of the angels or the shepherds, you would have had no reason to think of Jesus other than a simple child born to simple parents in the simple town of Bethlehem. You might have said something like; “He’s cute.” “Congratulations!” “We wish you the very best.” Little did they know.
Little did they know that this infant was born as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How could they have known that He was the very Son of God, unless they would have known the prophecies of the Old Testament, Gabriel’s message to Mary, the angel’s message to Joseph, or the angels’ message to the shepherds. Little did they know.
What we know now (and they knew then) is that God had a plan. We may never know it at the beginning. We never know how God will use those little people He entrusts to us when they are born into our lives. I now watch our grandchildren being born and growing up into our family, and I can only dream of all that God will do in their lives. We never know how God will use our hardships for His glory and our growth. We never know how God will use strangers who become new friends. We never know the intricacies of His transforming power at work in our lives day by day.
Despite the hardships we see taking place our world (Israel and Hamas and Ukraine and Russia, just to mention two), our country (political acrimony), and our lives this year, we do know that God always works through our hardships (Romans 8.28). Jesus was born into a flawed and broken world. Just ask those who lived in Bethlehem whose sons 2 years old and under were slaughtered by Herod (Matthew 2.13-18). Yet it is in that broken and flawed world God always works out His plan for redemption. He did it then and He does it now.
Christmas, the story of Jesus’ birth, is the story of God at work. He is not limited to our weaknesses. He is not limited by our failures. He is not limited by our broken and flawed world. He uses them. All He wants is for us to trust Him just like His Son kept entrusting His life to His Father (Philippians 2.7; 1 Peter 2.23). God is at work through the every day events in our lives. Trust Him. Worship Him. Just like Jesus did. Just like Mary did (Luke 1.38).
Remember - you cannot tell the end from the beginning. Don’t judge this day or don’t judge God by what you see happening today. Don’t judge yourself by today – by either your failures or your successes. Don’t let any other hardship be the final determinant for 2023 or the year ahead. He is at work. Remember and celebrate Christmas. Remember the words of the angel to Joseph; “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1.21). He has, and He will continue His redemption plan.
Nor do we know all the intricacies of His plans for the next 24 days, but He does. Let’s trust and celebrate Him this Christmas season as never before. Let’s celebrate His love and leadership in our lives. That is the message of Christmas.