November has long been known in the Church as the “Month of End Times”. It’s the time we talk about Saints (God’s holy ones) and Christ’s return as the King of all creation. It’s the time when the Biblical texts we use in our services almost all come from apocalyptic literature that is, they deal with the end of time as we know it. And our focus during November is always forward-looking to a new heaven and a new earth, and the revealing of the Lord Jesus in all His heavenly glory. But, we also take time to look back too, to look back and remember the Saints who have departed our company and now rest with the Saints in Light, and to look back at all the blessings God has bestowed on us and say “Thank You!”
However, as November comes to a close we leave the old Church Year behind and begin a new one. And, we enter into a new season, the Season of Advent a season that also looks ahead: to Christ’s coming, “a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him”; to Christ’s “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. November’s is a forward-looking vision, an apocalyptic vision, of a time foretold by Biblical prophecy. However, just as all Biblical prophecy contains a healthy dose of history (to back up what is being foretold), Advent must also look back: to the time when God broke into human history, to change its course forevermore. It’s a looking-back that continues right into the Season of Christmas, the season of the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus the Christ.
Now, honestly, it’s the looking-back that captures most of our attention, for we’re people who have much better hindsight than foresight. Besides that, we know the story the story of how an angel came to an adolescent girl, in a small village in the region of Galilee, to declare to her that God’s Spirit would cause her to become pregnant, and that she would give birth to the Son of God. We know, too, that everything occurred, just as the angel foretold it. But in our frenzy, to get the presents purchased and wrapped, and to get all the decorating and baking done, and to get all the holiday gatherings planned, we often overlook the fact that the characters in the story aren’t just porcelain figures in one of our nativity displays, and in that overlooking miss the human drama that occurs between the lines of the story.
I wonder if in the hustle and bustle of December, we don’t often miss the very real danger that adolescent girl faced the danger of being stoned to death, when it was discovered that she was pregnant before the marriage contract was fulfilled. And I wonder if we don’t often overlook the part about the prospective husband’s fuming, when he discovers his bride-to-be is pregnant and not by him and thereby miss how the angel’s visit turned his anger into compassion. I wonder, too, if we don’t miss the part about the compassionate care the people of a small, no-account, wheat-farming village, located a few miles south of the capital city, provided the young mother and her Baby. And I wonder if we don’t miss the significance of a few lowly shepherds being invited, by a band of angels, to be the first witnesses to the birth of the Son of God.
My hope and prayer for you this December is that you hold at bay the frenzy of the season, and sit back and let the story wash over you anew, and then bask in the details of this greatest of all stories, rediscovering the great lengths to which God went, to redeem you from the claim of eternal death. And may you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!
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