The Christmas season is an amazing time of year. Those of you in the U.S. right now, I hope that you are experiencing the wonder of Jesus’ coming, even among the huge materialistic culture surrounding this holiday. Being in China, a country where Christmas really is nothing but an excuse for shopping, has made me appreciate the awareness and charity that the Christmas season brings in the U.S., and other countries. But even here where Christmas is largely either unknown or undervalued, I have been so grateful for the church I attend here, where we have been learning through these past four weeks of advent.
“Advent” means “coming,” and this Advent season in a time for remembering the coming of Christ. The four themes, one for each week before Christmas, are Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace. While these are each characteristics found within Christmas itself, they seem to be even more clearly a beautiful description of the full gospel itself. Here it is:
Hope is believing in something yet unseen; holding onto a promise. When humankind sinned and departed from God, He promised them He would make a way, He would send a Redeemer. Hope is the light that served as a guide for generation upon generation until the very night in Bethlehem when He came.
“Glory to God in the highest!” the angels sang, proclaiming the good news that Jesus was born. God was essentially throwing a party, celebrating the birthday of His Son, and of the world’s Hope, the world’s Light, and the world’s Savior. Emmanuel, God with us, is true Joy.
Because He came that night, He began to live the life we could never live. He was not only without sin, but in being so He was pure Love. Everything He did was Love. He gave sight to the blind and life to the dead, and also gave water to thirsty souls. But most of all, He was betrayed, tortured, and killed for us. There is no greater Love than to lay down one’s life. And that is what He did in the greatest Love that has even been shown.
In His death and powerful Resurrection, He proved He is God and has power to conquer death and forgive sin. Therefore, our chains can fall to the ground, and our guilty, trembling hearts are freed and embraced. Because we did nothing to deserve it, we need not fear that our future failures will take it away. From this comes the peace that passes all understanding. As Paul said, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christmas is a beautiful time of year. But it is most beautiful when we remember the whole story. The gospel is the reason for the season.
Praise the Lord!