The “Christmas story” is one of the Bible’s most well-known accounts. For Christians and non-Christians alike, the “baby born in a manger” is a familiar event, as the season’s many nativity displays attest. The challenge, though, is that our familiarity may mask how unexpected the arrival of Jesus must have been to those who experienced it firsthand.
After all, Israel had been “waiting for the Messiah” for hundreds of years following their restoration after the Babylonian and Persian captivity, with no sign of his arrival over that extended period of time. For us who find it hard to wait in a drive-through lane for more than a few minutes, it should be evident how difficult it must have been for generation after generation to keep hope alive during centuries of unfulfilled longing.
And yet it is clear that Jesus’ birth was “right on time.” As Galatians 4:4-5 declares, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
This season should serve as an encouraging reminder for those of us who are waiting for Jesus’ second coming. We Jesus followers are called to proclaim the promise of a second arrival of Jesus in the future, an arrival that will mark the end of brokenness and the coming of a new heaven, a new earth, and a new reality of everlasting life for those who trust Him as Savior.
But what about the delay? It has been two millennia since His departure in Acts 1, and still no fulfillment of that promised return. It’s enough to make some question whether that hope is just wishful thinking. As Peter warned us in 2 Peter 3:3-4, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”
Our call as Christians is to always keep hope alive—to always remain vigilant and expectant for His return. Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
An incredible reminder of this hope in the midst of the Christmas season is the popular Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.” Ironically, the lyrics of this mainstay celebration of Jesus’ first arrival are, in fact, rooted in the reality of his second coming! This carol uses the lyricist Issac Watt’s adaptation of Psalm 98, which bible scholars agree is focused on Jesus’ second coming rather than his “Emmanuel advent.” Each time we sing it, we declare not only his past arrival but also His certain return.
So, as you celebrate this season, allow the Holy Spirit to stir in you a fresh expectation and longing for Jesus’ promised second coming. “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” (1 Peter 1:14)
Best wishes to all of you for Christmas blessings and hope!