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Opening doors in Advent and beyond

Author James Pope
Rev. James Pope, executive editor of Forward in Christ

I grew up with Advent calendars. You know, the kind that are printed on thick stock paper and have little doors that, when opened, reveal a lamb or a shepherd or some other figure or object. For a child like me, it was exciting to discover what was behind those doors in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

My children grew up with that same experience. A great-uncle sent them an Advent calendar each year. I looked forward to that annual mailing because their calendar gave me the opportunity to relive part of my childhood as I helped them find the day’s date on the calendar and open the appropriate door.

That routine happened day after day until, finally, it was Dec. 25, and my kids could open the door that revealed baby Jesus in the manger. There really wasn’t any suspense because every year everyone knew that the final day was Dec. 25 and what was behind that door.

There would be a great deal more suspense with another kind of calendar. Imagine something like an Advent calendar but on a much bigger scale. Picture a calendar representing our lives—one where we would open one of those little doors every day. (I have opened about 25,000 of those doors. How many have you opened?) Well, the suspense would be this: How many more of those doors will I open? When will the day come when I open a door that says, “The end”? The end of my life on earth—either at my death or, if I am alive at Jesus’ second advent, when he returns visibly on the Last Day.

It is interesting that the Bible uses the imagery of a door to describe the imminency of the Lord’s second advent. “The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9). That door is a symbolic one. It is not one made of wood or thick stock paper. It signifies how Jesus is ready to return visibly to this world to judge the living and the dead, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed. His return will be like opening a door that separates time and eternity.

When Jesus opens that door, that will be the end. It will be the end of this world as we know it, but it will be the beginning of a new life for Jesus’ followers as they inhabit forever the new heaven and new earth with glorified bodies and souls.

That new life is possible because of what Jesus did during his first advent to this world. The child in the manger grew and developed into a man. He stretched out his hands to heal the sick and feed the hungry. He moved his feet to travel so he could use his ears to listen to the cries of the distressed and then open his mouth to speak words of forgiveness. He displayed perfect love in our place. Then he offered his body on the cross to endure the punishment our sins deserved. The child in the manger is God’s gift of love to the world. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9,10).

Opening a door on an Advent calendar is so simple. The message behind the door on Dec. 25 is so profound. Before you go and open another door of any kind today, stop and thank God for his gift of a Savior to you.

Author: James Pope
Volume 110, Number 12
Issue: December 2023

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This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series before-you-go

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