The December days of my childhood were marked by numbered doors on an Advent calendar. Each day was one day closer to Christmas – so exciting!
December is a long month for a child, (and way too short for an adult.) Our Advent preparations consume about one month each year, but God planned for the first Christmas for thousands of years.
I wonder what God’s Advent calendar would have looked like?
Actually, we have it. It’s called the Old Testament.
The Old Testament story documents God’s redemptive plan as it unfolds in human history through the nation of Israel. We read of God’s blessing, discipline and grace as he dealt with human foolishness, sin and rebellion. Eventually, through historical events and the prophetic voice of God, the promise of a Redeemer became known as the “anointed one” (Messiah) from the line of David who would one day put everything right.
In the centuries immediately preceding Jesus’ birth, Israel’s longing for the promised Messiah grew especially intense.
It was a very long wait.
Finally, “the time came for the baby to be born…” Luke 2:6
Why so long? Why didn’t God just send Jesus sooner and save himself all that trouble?
Of course, only God knows, but we can ponder some possibilities.
God chose to break into history through a nation of people who would know, love, and serve him, and through whom Jesus would eventually be born. Since he started with one old guy and his infertile wife, it took a while.
Furthermore, historical events and prophecies were important pointers to Jesus’ birth. Without Messianic expectations no one would have recognized him. (In fact, many still didn’t.) The idea of the Creator of the universe coming to earth as a human baby is admittedly hard to imagine, and it can only be believed on the basis of God’s former observed actions in history and his prophecies fulfilled.
Perhaps part of God’s preparation for the first Christmas was time…
for God to prepare the nation and the family into which Jesus was born,
to develop the promise of a Messiah,
to allow people to experience the futility of their own efforts at salvation,
to recognize their deep need for a Savior,
and to build intense anticipation.
Just like that of a child opening doors on her Advent calendar.
Her parents, however, who are busily preparing loving gifts and a joyful celebration, experience the time quite differently. It goes faster, yes, but it is also a time to anticipate the delight of children opening good gifts on Christmas morning.
I wonder if that’s how God feels about the great Gift he prepared for us?
“This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ…” 2 Timothy, 1:9-10
How do you observe Advent? Do you have any other ideas about the timing of Jesus’s birth?