As people of faith in Christ Jesus, we celebrate this current season with special fervor and religious anticipation. The Christmas season, while maddeningly materialistic and terribly self-centered in our American culture, still holds special meaning for Christians. We want to encourage people in our community to “keep Christ in Christmas” – yet at the same time, we should remember why we celebrate this season and what it means for the faith.
We are people who believe in an “already and not yet” kingdom of God. God’s reign over the universe broke into this world in personal, tangible form through the person of Jesus Christ. This was the content of Jesus’s preaching (see Mark 1:14-15), and this was the reason that Jesus was born into the world (see John 18:33-38). He reigns in our hearts in the present tense. He conquers sin in our lives in the present tense. His rule is already secure because of his nature, his work on the cross, and his empty tomb.
And yet the kingdom of God is not yet completely fulfilled. We await Jesus’s return at the end of the age, at which point his kingdom will come in its completeness and perfection (see Revelation 22:6-21). There will be no more suffering in the future tense. The presence of God will fill us with heavenly light in the future tense. We yearn for Christ to return even within our lifetimes so that we might witness his reign being made complete.
We are “already and not yet” Christians. We believe in an “already and not yet” Lord, one who has already atoned for our sins but has not yet brought about the ultimate fullness of his kingdom.
This ties into our observance of the season of Advent, the season in which we celebrate the “coming” (“advent”) of Jesus Christ: both his birth into the world and his second coming at the end of the age. We are “already and not yet” Christians who celebrate an “already and not yet” Lord!
We tend to focus on the past tense story of Christmas, the birth of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem, during this season. Let us always remember, though, that our faith points us toward a future tense story of Advent, which is the return of Christ in final victory and triumph. Even as Jesus came to earth in the form of a tiny, humble baby, so he will return again as ultimate, undisputed, unmistakable King.
Who needs Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday advertisements, nonstop secular Christmas songs, and stereotypical American indebtedness to celebrate this season? Let’s celebrate Advent, in word and in deed, as people of true faith.