A Season to Look Back and Ahead

We are a people of promise. For centuries, God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would give a way to draw near to him.

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25. The first Advent Sunday this year was November 30. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering, the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus.

That’s what the word advent means—coming. Even God’s prophets who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating” (1 Peter 1:11). They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like.

In fact, God revealed to them that they were not the ones who would see the sufferings and glory of God’s Christ.

They were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. (1 Peter 1:12)

They were serving us. We Christians on this side of Jesus’ birth are a God-blessed, happy people because we know God’s plan. The ancient waiting is over. We have the greatest reason to celebrate.

And yet we are still waiting.

Our spiritual redemption came to us with the baby of Bethlehem. But still, as Romans 8 says, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (verse 23).

There is suffering and tragedy still, even for Christians. Someone we love is dying. We may be in pain. Sometimes we have trouble believing God’s promises.

In other words, our redemption is not complete. We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies—waiting for Jesus’ second advent, for him to come again.

So here we stand in the middle. Advent is a season of looking back, thinking how it must have been for those awaiting the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect. And at the same time, it is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at his Second Coming.

Noël Piper (@noelpiper) is wife of John Piper, mother of five, and grandmother of twelve. She is author of Treasuring God in Our Traditions.