This is the season of the Church year when we remember and celebrate the incarnation and the “advent” of Jesus Christ. There are many dimensions of this Advent. It certainly refers to the coming of the Second Person of the Trinity as the Son of God into the lowly stable of Bethlehem as the exalted Son of Man prepared to “raise the sons of earth” to their right status before God. It also refers to the Second Advent when Jesus Christ as the “Son of God and Son of Man” returns to receive those whom He has called, to judge the world, setting all things right, and to usher in the consummation of the New Creation. However, as we all know, there is a big gap in time and space between the first and second Advents of Jesus Christ. God, in His mercy, has given to us a large ‘redemptive space’ into which the church is to live out the future realities of the in-breaking Kingdom into the present age. We are to be outposts of the New Creation in Adam’s world. This happens in ten thousand small ways in tiny corners of the world as God – through His Church – bears witness to His righteous rule and reign.
It is into such a world that we all are called to live as children of the light, bearing witness to that True Light which has come- and is coming – into the world. Tomorrow my wife, Julie, our son, Jonathan and myself will all board a plane and travel to Tanzania to be with our daughter who is an AIM missionary to the Alagwa people in northern Tanzania. The Alagwa people live in a remote corner of the world, not unlike what Bethlehem must have been like in the first century. They live in a world without running water, electricity, streets, internet and other marks of modern societies. Their language is only oral and they have not had the opportunity to read or to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Our daughter, Bethany, along with nine others on her team, have been living with the Alagwa since 2010. They want them to know that Jesus Christ gave himself for them just as much as any people group on the earth. They are, in a small way, re-enacting the advent of Jesus Christ in seed form to the Alagwa people. This is, of course, the third way the Advent of Jesus Christ happens in our world. The Advent of Jesus is not isolated to two points in history – the first Christmas and the Second Coming – but is an unfolding reality whenever the kingdom of Jesus Christ breaks in afresh to a new people.
Perhaps the best way to celebrate Christmas is not merely to look back on the first Christmas, or look forward to the second coming, but look out into the world and discover new ways in which Jesus Christ can be presented, or in some cases, be re-presented, to the world. The witness of every church should be a little re-enactment of the incarnation in seed form. These re-enactments are only possible since God in Jesus Christ has set the stage and He remains the central player in this divine drama. Our job is not simply to wait for the Second Coming, but to live out his first coming in the present age in countless ways until Jesus returns. If we knew that Jesus was coming back tomorrow we should still get up and go to our places of work and study, because we want to make sure that whenever He does return he finds us not idle, but “in the saddle” doing the works of Jesus each and every day. I am confident that Bethany will inspire me to return to my place of work and witness and seek, in small ways, to be faithful to his coming into the world God has placed me.