“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).
We went shopping at a local mall on a Saturday afternoon in September. As we rode the escalator to the second floor, my wife looked beyond me and said, “Don’t turn around!” I knew what she meant: “Turn around, but you won’t like what you see!” What terrible sight was about to greet us on the second floor? A fully decorated Christmas tree with lights, garland, and ornaments! Did I mention that it was September?
Our US culture observes its secular version of Christmas long before Christmas Day. The day after Thanksgiving used to be the start of the secular Christmas season. Now the starting date seems to be the day after Halloween—or even earlier! Impatient Americans don’t wait to celebrate the holidays. We exhaust them long before they arrive on the calendar!
How very different is the Christian’s Christmas celebration! Christmas Eve and Day don’t end the celebration but begin it. We spend the weeks leading up to Christmas not in celebration but in hopeful anticipation. We light the first candle of the Advent wreath as we take our place in the sandals of Old Testament believers who looked up to the heavens, waiting and watching and hoping for the Lord to keep his promise to send the Messiah.
God promised to send his Son to undo the damage of sin caused by Adam and Eve and each one of their descendants. That includes you. Jesus would have had every right to come into this world with his wrath and anger aimed squarely at us. He would have had every right to fill us with fear instead of hope. Instead, God’s promised Messiah came with grace and humility aimed solely at saving us. His mission from cradle to cross would remove the guilt of sin and restore the relationship between God and humankind.
Old Testament believers waited and hoped for God to send the Messiah as he promised. New Testament believers now wait and hope for Christ to return in glory and bring us to the glories that he won for us. Despite many attempts to predict that day, we cannot know when it will be. And so we patiently wait and hope. We hope in Christ, knowing that he who kept his promise by his first advent will come again in his good time for his final advent. With hopeful anticipation we cry, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Watch students from Martin Luther College sing the suggested hymn, “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?”
Read the devotion in storybook form.
Author: Johnold Strey
Volume: 110, Number 12
Issue: December 2023