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Focus on what is ahead

Mark G. Schroeder

People who are near-sighted can see clearly what is right in front of their eyes. But when objects are farther away, they get blurry and out of focus. So near-sighted people need to wear glasses or contact lenses to bring their vision into focus.

The season of Advent is a time for us to focus spiritually. In our worship services during Advent, we are directed to focus on Savior’s first coming in Bethlehem. Despite the many distractions that our culture throws at us during the Advent season, we as believers are always eager and happy to fix our eyes on what the season is really about—the celebration of the Savior’s birth.

After thousands of years of waiting by God’s people, the long-promised Messiah had finally come. The life and ministry of Jesus that followed fulfilled other prophecies well known to God’s Old Testament people: The beginning of his ministry, described in prophecy as the time when “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2); the One identified by John as the great Passover “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29); the lowly King, prophesied by Zechariah, who entered Jerusalem “lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9). This was the Savior whose suffering and death was described by Isaiah so graphically that it seems that he was witnessing the scene in person: “We considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4,5). This was the living and victorious Savior confessed by Job when he sang, “I know that my redeemer lives” (19:25).

We might be surprised to learn that the emphasis and theme of the first Sunday of Advent has nothing to do with the first coming of Jesus two thousand years ago. Rather, it directs our attention to his second coming. The last section of the prayer for Advent in our hymnal highlights this unexpected emphasis:

Direct our eyes not only to the manger, but to the skies, where we will see your Son coming again, not as a lowly child, but as the Lord of lords. Lift our hearts in joyful anticipation of that day. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, in your grace, in your power, and in your glory! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen. Christian Worship, p. 123.

Like a badly needed pair of glasses for a near-sighted person, the first Sunday in Advent helps us to see clearly the final result of the work Jesus was born to do. As the Scriptures so clearly foretold, the Savior came to live and die and rise again for us. Those promises were kept without exception. But one promise still remains: Jesus will come again.

Unlike his first coming in lowliness and humility, the second coming of Jesus will be a victorious and joyful return. We know that it will happen. But we don’t know when.

Because we don’t know when Jesus will come, we can easily lose sight of that promise. We can become spiritually near-sighted. We end up losing sight of the promise still to be experienced.

The season of Advent, by its initial emphasis on Jesus’ final return, begins by focusing our attention on that glorious day when we will see our Savior with our own eyes and experience in person the end result of what he first came to do.

So, focus with joy and with hope on Bethlehem . . . and beyond.

Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 2019

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This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series presidents desk

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