This is the meditation I wrote that appeared in this weekend’s reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
If you’ve been keeping up with this Prayerbook (or any Advent guide), then congratulations! I hope it’s spoken to you and you have experienced God in its readings and meditations.
That being said, you might be wondering: why is this Prayerbook continuing after Christmas Day?
It was only a couple of years ago I found out that in the Church Calendar, Christmas is not just a day—it’s an entire season! Advent Season leads into Christmas Season. Why is this? Advent has a similar relationship to Christmas that Lent does to Easter: it’s meant to be the time of reflection, preparation, and repentance that prepares us for the unbridled, no limits, over-the-top celebration and joy of Christmas. Our spiritual ancestors knew that celebration takes time and preparation. That’s what Advent has been.
But now we’re in the Christmas Season—the time of complete unfettered celebration. But why?
If you look at our full reading from Isaiah 7, this child—Immanuel (which means “God with us”)—was going to come as a “sign”, a picture of something that would happen in the future to Ahaz’s Kingdom and the land of God’ people.
In our Christmas celebration, we celebrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of Immanuel, because he is God with us. But our celebration doesn’t just come from remembering how God was with us in Jesus, but it also comes from seeing how God is with us in Jesus, and how he will be with us in the world to come.
We can sometimes focus so much on the Christmas story and wise men, mangers, and shepherds that we forget that the birth of Jesus, just like the birth of that child in Isaiah, is also a sign of something to happen in the future to God’s Kingdom and God’s Earth.
At Christmas, we not only remember one Advent of Jesus, we also look forward to his second Advent at the end of history. In God’s first Advent in Jesus, he accomplished everything necessary for his second Advent to be the place of complete and unending joy of which our Christmas celebrating is just a taste.
The peace the angels heralded that Christmas night was not only for the shepherds then, but it also looks forward to the World to Come. That world in which every tear and sin is wiped away. Where every injustice and suffering finds its answer. Where everything in history finds it fulfillment, satisfaction, and culmination. Where Jesus, the One for Whom our souls were made, is with us completely and comprehensively and eternally.
And if that’s not reason to rejoice, I don’t know what is.
So bring out the good food and drink, the old songs, and the close friends, because now is the time to celebrate loud and long. Merry, merry, Christmas.