Did you know that Christmas is about God wanting to have a relationship with you? You might have thought it was about presents, or peace on earth, good will to man … that sort of thing – and it is in a lesser way. But at the center of the Christmas message is a God of love who desires to be with you.
That’s right. God wants to spend time with you.
That’s why the Father sent Jesus to be born as a little baby. It set in motion this whole plan of love in Jesus’ death and resurrection that would break through the barrier of sin and reunite mankind with a loving Heavenly Papa.
One meaningful Christian tradition to help us experience God’s presence is called Advent – which means ‘coming’ in Latin, the coming of Christ into the world. Over the centuries, Christians have observed the four Sundays and weeks prior to Christmas to prepare for and observe the real meaning of Christmas – that Jesus came into this world as a helpless baby to grow into a man so that He could save us from our sins.
There are three ‘comings’ of Jesus that are mentioned in the Bible, and that we can contemplate during the season of Advent; first was His coming as a baby in that manger of Bethlehem; the second is when we open our heart and invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior; and the third will take place some day soon when Jesus returns to this world as King of kings to remove sin and suffering once and for all time.
According to WhyChristmas.com, the celebration of Advent dates back at least to 567 AD when monks were commanded to fast during December in anticipation of Christmas. Today there are Christians around the world who still fast during Advent as a sign of their devotion to God. Orthodox Christians often fast from meat and dairy, and sometimes wine and fish during the Advent season.
Some Christians use Advent calendars to mark the individual days until Christmas. While there are still paper calendars available, believers can now download digital Advent calendars from the Internet. Some European countries use a wreath of fir with 24 backs or boxes hanging from it. In each box there is a little present for each day.
Lighting Advent Candles
Many Christians also observe Advent by lighting candles each week prior to Christmas. There are two types of Advent candles. The first has the days up to Christmas marked down the side of the candle. On the first day of December the candle is lit and burnt down to the first line of the candle. This is repeated every day, and then the rest of the candle is burnt on Christmas Day.
The Advent Crown is another method of observance using candles. The crown is often comprised of a wreath of greenery with four candles around the outside and one in the center, or in a separate place. One candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent; two are lit on the second Sunday, and so on through Christmas Day.
While there is much symbolism attached to the Advent Crown by Christians throughout the centuries, James Cooper of WhyChristmas.com shares what he was taught about the candles:
- The first represents Isaiah and other prophets in the Bible that predicted the coming of Jesus.
- The second represents the Bible.
- The third represents Mary, the mother of Jesus.
- The fourth represents John the Baptist, who told the people in Israel to get ready for Jesus’ teaching.
- The middle or separate candle is lit on Christmas Day and represents Jesus, the Light of the World.
Emmanuel: God With Us
Living with mankind in daily relationship was God’s idea from the beginning. The Bible says that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden. The Father sent Jesus because he wanted to renew that kind of intimate fellowship with us.
During the Christmas season we often sing the classic hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” but have you ever thought about what this familiar song means?
The text is based on the biblical prophecy from Isaiah 7:14:
…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (ESV).
The name Emmanuel literally means “God with us.” God gave Jesus to mankind as the first Christmas present.
The Apostle Paul tells of the wonder of this idea several times in his letters.
…God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27, ESV)
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. (2 Cor. 5:18, NLT)
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10, ESV)
Jesus Himself made it clear that relationship with God should be our highest priority in this life.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:7-8, NKJV)
It is God’s will that we remain in fellowship with Him for all eternity. We see this in the beautiful hope-filled words of Apostle John in his revelation:
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. (Rev. 21:3, NLT)
This is the glorious news that we proclaim to the nations, that Jesus is Emmanuel. By His shed blood, He has ransomed captive Israel – and now He lives with us through the precious Holy Spirit.
So have a very Merry Christmas knowing that God loves you and wants to be with you. May you know the presence of your Heavenly Father in a special way during the Advent Season.
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Craig von Buseck is Digital Content Editor for Inspiration.org.