Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (v.23).
Having grown up in a nonliturgical denomination, I remember the first time my family celebrated Christmas with an Advent wreath. My dad, who was a pastor, had changed his denominational association, and with it came the emphasis on the church calendar. In high school when the transition came, I noted the differences and gained a true appreciation for the ceremony I had encountered only on occasion before this time. While I loved the symbolism in the lighting of each candle, the observance as a whole brought a sense of spiritual anticipation previously unstirred by gifts under the tree.
Taken back to its original Latin roots, the word advent literally means “a coming, approach, arrival.” We spend weeks (and for some, months) preparing for Christmas. Presents to buy and wrap, decorations to put up, food to prepare—all because we’re filled with anticipation.
But the real expectation is Jesus, and we—His church and bride—celebrate one arrival while awaiting another. Not content to take His place beside us, He chose to lower Himself that He might dwell with—and within—us (john 14:20, 15:4, 17:21). He’s the promise realized. The world we live in, however, is but a shadow of what’s to come. Thus, He’s also the promise awaited.
While any repeated observance can become trivialized in its importance, we guard the preciousness of Christmas when we remember that this world is not the final chapter. Jesus is returning for a people who “Look!” with anticipation (matthew 1:23, 25:13). This very hope of what is to come should stir us to greater worship today.
So, in the bright glimmer of the lights, the lively sounds of the songs, and the endless Christmas celebrations, are you looking for Him?
Read luke 1:26-37 and consider how Mary’s hope wasn’t based on revealed information, but in the One who sent the message.
Why is anticipation a healthy aspect of our relationship with Jesus? How can we make sure that our hope is placed in His presence and not in what we expect Him to do for us?