Appropriately enough, I’ve been thinking this season about celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ.
Certainly, this idea of the Incarnation–of God becoming man in order to reveal Himself to us and to remove the barriers to relationship between us and Him–is a significant one for Christianity. The fact that God would humble Himself so that He might relate to us is rather incredible; the fact that He would suffer and die for that relationship even more so.
But while this certainly is a season of celebration, it raises a question for me.
Christians believe that, although Jesus has ascended and returned to His Father’s side, God the Holy Spirit continues to dwell among us, within us. Jesus heralded this as a significant state of affairs, stating that it was better for Him to leave and for the Holy Spirit to take up an abiding place with us here on earth (John 16:7).
I absolutely think that we should rehearse and celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; that’s Easter. But why do we make so much of Christmas, of His birth as a baby? It was indeed significant that God came to earth, but Jesus is not now with us in the same way, and instead the Holy Spirit is with us–which is apparently (by Jesus’ words) even better. Why don’t we instead celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit? (Some churches do, at Pentecost, which is 7 weeks after Easter.)
This is a season about coming and our preparation. He has come; let’s be grateful and consider the impact of the life and resurrection of Jesus on us. And He is coming back.
But He’s also here right now. God is with us right now.
We love the name of God, “Immanuel“–God with us. But when we use that name, we tend to focus on Jesus, that He came to be with us. But God is still with us, and not just in the sense that He cares about us from a distance and supports us. He is with us now in a way more intimate and near than when Jesus came to earth in a manger. The Holy Spirit has taken up His residence in us. Where’s the holiday to celebrate that?
I’m not a Grinch or a Scrooge; I enjoy the celebration of Christmas, and I am grateful that God took the necessary step to come here Himself and to sort out our mess. But if we only ever look back at the time 2000 years ago when God was coming, when He was present with us, and never reflect on that fact that He’s here today in an even more significant way, then I think we miss something.
Let this time of Advent, of Christmas, remind us that Jesus came and that He’s coming again, but also that God is present with His people even now. We needn’t only look back or look ahead; we can look right here. We are not a people who have only experienced God in history and who only hope to see Him again in eternity.