We are a cursed people, a cursed creation. But it wasn't always so and it won't always be.
Far As the Curse Is Found
In the beginning, God created and it was good. He breathed life into man and set him to live in the Garden of Eden - Eden meaning "delight." The beautiful gift of the garden was that God delighted in his creation as his creation delighted in his presence.
But disobedience ushered in the ugly: pride, deceit, shame, separation. And with it, a curse. Women would painfully labor to bear children and men would painfully labor for the ground to bear thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:16-19). Disobedience introduced death and dying and all of creation felt it.
But graciously, in the curse was the cure. For in the very garden where it all broke down, God spoke of a battle and of a Rescuer and of restoration. He told the enemy:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. --Genesis 3:15
And graciously, in the punishment was protection. He sent his children out of the garden of delight lest they eat of the life-giving tree there and so live forever in this corrupted state. "You must not stay and live forever, broken. You must labor and decay in waiting for the Rescuer to give you life forever, restored."
A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent. --Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Repeat The Sounding Joy
Advent means "coming" or "the arrival of something long-awaited." Throughout the Old Testament, God prepared his people for the advent of their Savior. He taught them about blood and sacrifice and priests and kings. He sent prophets to reveal bits and pieces of what the Savior would be like.
And all the while, His people waited. Creation waited. What was broken in the garden, all of heaven and earth longed to see reconciled. Year after year, century after century they waited. As time passed, anticipation mounted. They longed for this Savior, hoped for him, watched for him with bated breath - such that when the angels did finally fill the night sky to proclaim to the shepherds, "He is here," I imagine it was something of a gloriously joyous...exhale.
"Joy to the world! The Lord is come! The long-awaited Savior has arrived!"
Wonders Of His Love
Friends, I have some unsettling news. You might want to sit down for this one. While "Joy to the World" is a beloved Christmas carol, it wasn't written about Christ's birth. It was actually written about his second coming.
...Have I sufficiently rocked your Christmas world?
It's going to be ok though. It's still an appropriate song to sing at Christmas because it IS an advent song.
Christ was born for the cross. He was born to pay our penalty of death. He came at the first advent to be our sacrifice, our peace offering, to reconcile us to God. But he will come again to deliver us from pain and corruption, to set us free from bondage, to make our adoption and redemption complete. And while he arrived as a humble baby and servant, he will return as a glorious warrior and king.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. --Hebrews 9:27-28
We live in the space and time between his arrival and his return. When we countdown the December days to Christ's birth, we celebrate advent. But we have another advent still to anticipate.
So what should our anticipation look like? Well, imagine a young couple in love and engaged to be married. Maybe his job sends him overseas until the week of the wedding, while she stays home preparing, planning, and pining. She longs for the day of his return and what it will mean: their beautiful wedding and the beginning of their long-awaited marriage.
This imperfect image might at least give us an idea. The Church is the Bride of Christ - not to be confused with the wife of Christ for we are not yet married. We are still waiting and anticipating that special day. Jesus Christ is our Betrothed and when he returns, it's time for the wedding. How glorious it will be!
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. --Revelation 19:6-7
But what's even more is that Christ is not only our Betrothed; He is our Rescuer. All of creation awaits his return. The whole of creation groans together in pain, longing for freedom that only he can bring (Romans 8:19-23).
Do we feel the anticipation mounting? Building to the moment the skies peel open and our Rescuer rides in on his white horse with an army of angels at his side? His robe will be dipped in the blood for the work he completed on the cross at his first advent. Our Faithful and True King of Kings and Lord of Lords will set everything right and reign triumphant forever (Revelation 19:11-16).
May we ready ourselves as we eagerly wait for him!
Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing!