It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth…
It’s Christmas Eve. In some traditions, the advent wreath contains a fifth candle. This candle is tall and white, standing in the center, surrounded by the four that have been lit consecutively in this season of preparation. Advent is about preparation, anticipation and hope.
The center candle of the advent wreath is lit on Christmas Eve for the long-awaited arrival of Jesus Christ. The world breathes out a sigh: Finally.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til HE appeared and the soul felt its worth.
The world has waited so long. He is here. The one who is the answer to all the questions. Jesus will bring a new kingdom that will have no end. This Kingdom will turn the pain and suffering in the world into joy. This baby is called Emmanuel, God-with-us. In coming, in his life and teaching and in his death on a cross, he made a final declaration of who God is and just what he thinks his human creations (us) are worth.
The candle lit this night is surrounded by four others intended to display Jesus’ character in light. And rightly so, as he is the light in a dark world, situated as the center and source of all hope, peace, joy and love.
I had the privilege of studying the theology of incarnation while in seminary a few years ago. There is great wonder in the incarnation. GOD CHOSE TO BECOME HUMAN. To be Emmanuel, God WITH us. God in flesh. God in a manger. God on a cross. Only a God crazy-in-love with us would dare to give up his own power, to become one of us, for us. If we accept this, how can we not celebrate?
But why did he come?
There is a depth of beauty in knowing the season of advent as one of not only preparation, but also one of yearning. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” That song gives me chills. The world laid in darkness, and in many ways is in darkness still as God seeks to establish his already-not-yet-come-Kingdom. But that yearning for light! Oh, we know it! We recognize it. Jesus is the light of the world.
In our knowledge of a dark and broken world full of pain and evil, then and now, there is a “thrill of hope” and this “weary world rejoices as yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!” There is is hope and peace; There is joy and love. All found centered in a tiny baby who grew up to plant the seeds of this Kingdom of God, to die, to defeat Satan’s power. To display for the world just what it, and each human soul, is worth to God- we are worth his very self. This baby, God-in-skin, showed us exactly who God is. God is hope, peace, joy, love. And God is sacrifice, giving himself for a world that desperately needs him.
This is why I love Christmas. In many ways, Christmas has deepened and made richer my understanding of God, the cross, the kingdom and even Easter. Because without God becoming man, how could we know that God loved us enough to die and rise again?
Jesus is the center of this season. What we choose to believe about him and who he claimed to be matters, not only for the Christmas season, but for how we live and orient our whole lives.
In Advent, we wait. In Christmas, Jesus shows up and changes everything. May our hearts and lives never be the same.
Merry Christmas. God bless us, Everyone!