Anticipating the Promise
Something seems to happen the day after Thanksgiving. It is almost as if a switch is thrown and somehow overnight, the pumpkins and fall decorations on everyone’s home transform into sparkly lights and winter wreaths.
At least that is how it is on my street and in my house. By the time we had our first plate of leftovers from Thanksgiving, our tree was up, and the Christmas decorations were being hung on the outside of our home. The radio stations must be on that same magical switch, because by Friday, November 27th, the regular programming had been switched out for the Christmas tunes that we all love so well.
Something happens to people this time of year. Even the humbuggers who think that November is too early for decorations and music are quickly won over and worn down by the anticipation energy of the Christmas season.
During this time of year, Bible passages like Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 are well known and at least partially quoted. Carols such as “Come thou long expected Jesus” and “Silent Night” run through our heads and are played over the radio waves and possibly the music system at your local shopping mall.
What is it that drives this life change that seems to happen each year? I think it is the anticipation that comes from knowing that something better is coming. Let’s face it: this year has been a letdown for most people. I personally don’t know of anyone who has not been disappointed or had some important life event cancelled because of COVID. By now when another disappointment comes, most of us are saying… “Well it is 2020, what did you expect?”
Even in 2020, I have seen a glimpse of hope in people’s eyes as the Christmas season comes around. That desire to anticipate something better is ingrained in us. Almost from the beginning of mankind’s existence, we have been anticipating something. Mankind has been yearning for something more…something better. Ever since that day in the garden when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, we have been anticipating the promise which God pronounced. Someday a Deliverer would come that will fix the fallenness of mankind. He will cleanse the stains of sin; which mankind has caused. He will bring true reconciliation and restoration to the world.
But when would he come? Adam and Eve thought that the promised Deliver was Abel. Nope! Cain took care of that expectation. Then they thought it was Seth. No, he died. Perhaps it was Noah. No, not him. By the end of his life there were a few life events that would rule him out. Maybe it’s David. I mean, he was a man after God’s own heart, right? David was a pretty good candidate as-long-as you can overlook all the murder, adultery, and interfamily conflict. As human history marched on, there was growing anticipation among God’s people. When is this Deliverer going to come, and when he comes who will he be?
By the time Prophets like Isaiah come on the scene, God decides to give mankind some more clues as to who their Deliverer would be. Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recorded some interesting character qualities about this Deliverer whom mankind had been expecting:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
This is awesome information. When this Deliver is born, he would somehow be a human like you and me, but he would not be like us, because he would possess these divine qualities: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He would rule an eternal kingdom with peace and righteousness. That is amazing news! This Deliverer sounds awesome! But when is he going to come? When is this Deliverer to come and give mankind the hope that they are waiting for? Isaiah didn’t know. As world history is recorded throughout the rest of the Old Testament, no one else knows either. The Old Testament concludes with its writers asking the same questions. When is he coming? Who will he be?
After 400 years of prophetic silence, the world had almost all but forgotten that a Deliverer was coming. God’s people knew in theory, but most had stopped looking for him. Then something happens: angels begin talking to people, several women are enabled to have children in supernatural ways, and a man named John begins touring the wilderness of Israel acting like one of the great prophets of old, proclaiming that he is here to prepare the way for the long-awaited Deliverer.
For thousands of years now, mankind had been waiting for a Deliverer. Mankind had been anticipating this promise of hope. That promise of hope became a reality when a young girl named Mary had a son and called his name Jesus. On that day, Isaiah’s prophecy about this son who would be given, was fulfilled. Throughout Jesus’ life, he proved to be the Wonderful Counselor. Jesus taught that while he was a man, he was also the one and only Mighty God. Jesus, while being the Son of God, was also one with the Everlasting Father. And one day, Jesus would sit on the throne of David and rule over his kingdom as the Prince of Peace.
The Deliverer had finally come! He was walking and talking among the people of the world. But the sad reality was that most people either didn’t recognize him or they didn’t want to recognize him. People had been waiting for this Deliverer for so long that they had lost hope. But, throughout Jesus' life and ministry, that hope was restored. The long-awaited anticipation of the promise was complete. Now the question was not: When is he coming? – the question posed to mankind was: Will you acknowledge him?
On the morning of Jesus’ crucifixion, a man named Pilate presents Jesus by declaring “Behold the Man!” (John 19:5). Pilate was presenting a beaten and scourged Jesus to the crowd in hopes that they would take pity on him and allow his release. Pilate had realized that there was something greater going on. There was something spiritual about Jesus and he didn’t want any part in this mob’s pursuit of his death.
When Pilate declared, “Behold the Man!” he didn’t realize that much more was being declared.
Behold the Man who is the Christ! Jesus is the One who fulfilled all prophecies concerning the promised deliverer who would one day come to provide a solution to mankind’s sin problem.
Behold the Man who is God! Being God, he took on human flesh in order to lay down his guiltless and sinless life so that forgiveness could be granted to all those who believe!
Behold the Man who is our Sovereign Lord! He has all authority in heaven and on earth. Nothing is outside of his control, and no one is too far from his care.
Behold the Man who is our hope! This man, Jesus Christ, who being God in the flesh was born for the purpose of giving glory to God....as he provided hope to the world. As Jesus, the perfect Passover lamb, is led to the place where he would be offered up as a sacrifice for our sins, an opportunity for hope is extended to all those who would believe.
This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent where we take an opportunity to begin the Christmas season focusing on the hope that Christ provides. As we anticipate the wonders of Christmas this year, how are you beholding the man Christ Jesus? Are you beholding him in the same way that the authors of Scripture do? In whom do you place your hope?
Christ was more than just a baby in a manger. He is our Promised Deliverer and King who paid the penalty for our sins so that we can be reconciled, redeemed and reunited with Him when He returns!
When we celebrate Christmas this year, what are we truly anticipating? I hope that we are anticipating the realization and fulfillment of the hope we have in Christ. Not only the hope that was provided at his birth and through his death, burial and resurrection, but we should also celebrate the hope we have of his soon return.
Celebrating the birth of Christ is not fully complete unless we are also filled with hope and anticipation awaiting his second coming!
Let’s remember the hope that only comes through a relationship with Christ as we celebrate his birth and imminent return this Christmas season!