Although the Thanksgiving holiday is past, we as Christians should not make it an end of being thankful. Being thankful to God for all of the blessings that He has given us—especially the gift of redemption by His Son Jesus Christ—must be a part of our daily living. The same psalm that says “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song,” (Psalm 95:2) also reminds us that “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Psalm 95:7b-11) The children of Israel did not enter into the Promised Land because of their ingratitude at some of the greatest wonders recorded in Scripture. We must never take God’s blessing for granted.
But now we turn to the Christmas season. We gear up for shopping in crowded malls, travelling in jammed airports with intrusive security, setting out enough Christmas decorations to compete with Opryland, and the endless round of Christmas parties whose main legacy is an expanded waistline. Somewhere, the birth of our precious Saviour gets lost in the shuffle.
In the years before Evangelicalism came to prominence—and with it the discarding of the liturgical year—Christians regarded the time running up to Christmas as a penitential one, a time to seek special atonement from God. Such a season is referred to as Advent, coming from the Latin meaning “coming towards” (Christmas, the birth of the Saviour.) Advent also was intended to remind people that, just as Jesus had come once to redeem us, he will come again to reign as our King in every sense of the word. A popular Advent hymn by Charles Wesley reflects this thinking:
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Christ the Lord returns to reign.
The Incarnation is one of the great miracles of human history. The reality that God became one of us sets Christianity apart from every other religion and cult. But, just as He came once, He will come again. With the signs around us, that return cannot be far. It’s something we need to remember and celebrate in all of our holiday activity.