We’re excited to share a number of Advent Reflections with you in the run up to Christmas this year, from a number of different voices in our church family.
Our hope is that as you take a moment to pause, to read and to reflect, you would experience the hope and anticipation of waiting for Jesus as we remember his first arrival all those years ago in Bethlehem, and live in expectation of his glorious return.
Beginnings & Endings.
For a while, it has felt like I’m stuck in this vast ‘middle’ of a cycle of life. My days are spent completing uni work, watching Netflix, and shopping online far too often. I recently bought a volleyball to be able to play with it outside with friends… not realizing it would be delivered flat, and I have no pump. Yeah, that just about describes this time of in-between.
However, the most wonderful holiday of all holidays is coming fast: Christmas! In thinking about these cycles of beginnings, middles, and endings in life, I’ve been thinking about what Christmas actually means for me and anyone else who feels as if they’re in a vast middling. Christmas is, of course, a celebration of the birth of our Savior, as the millions of diverse nativity scenes scattered around windows and homes remind us. But, what if it actually symbolizes so much more for us? And no, I’m not talking about Santa, presents, or even the beautiful trees.
When you become a Christian and accept Jesus as Christ, we say you’re ‘born again,’ and when you die you return to the Father in heaven. Jesus was born, then he died, and he returned (and will return again!). It says in Revelation 1:5 that Jesus ‘is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of kings of the earth.’ The ‘firstborn of the dead’ is a fascinating epithet to add to ‘faithful witness’ and ‘ruler of kings’, isn’t it? But it means that He triumphed wholly and fully over death, and He came back with His own power in all the holiness and glory of God. His birth out of death and back into life is an invitation to all of us feeling like we’re stuck in this middle, stuck in this cycle of death—whether that looks like loneliness, depression, anxiety, financial struggles, or maybe even mourning. He was the firstborn out of death, not the last; His invitation is to follow Him into a new beginning.
Here’s the thing. All beginnings are endings and all endings are new beginnings. We each have a life that mirrors that cycle: we are born, we will die, and we will return to God. We begin, we live, we end… and then the next beginning of true life starts as we stand at the throne of God. The New Testament begins with our Savior’s birth in the Gospels, and it ends with His return in Revelation. Perhaps Christmas isn’t just about celebrating the beginning of our new lives with Christ being born, but maybe we also celebrate it knowing we have His promise of His return, and His eternal invitation into a new life for every cycle we feel we can’t get out of.
Christmas isn’t just to celebrate a beginning, but the ultimate ending. It’s also to celebrate each day as it comes, because each middle is in itself a collection of beginnings and endings, and it’s up to you to take God’s hand and accept that glorious invitation.
17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’