[Editor’s Note: Today’s article is an excerpt adapted from this year’s Advent study, Fulfilled. We pray that as you reflect on the gift of Jesus, prepared and given by our heavenly Father, your heart would be stirred to worship him.]
I don’t like to leave things undone until the last minute. In fact, Gretchen would call me a pre-crastinator. If it’s not done early, then it’s late. So it won’t surprise you that by the time you read these words, I will likely have all my Christmas shopping finished. A few stocking stuffers or teacher gifts may remain to pick up, but I’m basically done.
To accomplish this, I prepare a thorough gift checklist in September. I write down the names of all my close family members and friends in a note on my phone and start brainstorming. October is my month for scouring the internet for fresh ideas. By the time November rolls around, I’m deep in buying mode, searching for the best deals. If I’m not finished by cyber deals week, well, I consider that a failure. Sure, there might be a straggler (I dare you to find anyone harder to buy for than my dad), but the main goal is to be 100% done by then for the purpose of appreciating everything else December has to offer.
I love giving good gifts, so the waiting period between completing my gift checklist and sharing those gifts with my friends and family is filled with eager anticipation. I wrap presents early, place them under the tree a week or two before Christmas Day, and encourage my sons to admire and shake and even guess what could be inside. The anticipation builds until the glorious morning of unwrapping and enjoying.
Recognizing the Value of the Gift
Can you imagine the care that God, our heavenly Father who gives good gifts, took in preparing to give the most perfect gift of all (Matt. 7:11)? He made a checklist of the perfect Messiah and even shared it with his people in countless prophecies and pictures presented in the Old Testament. God always knew the perfect fulfillment of his checklist would come in the form of his only Son.
The Israelites knew the gift was coming. They should have been anticipating it, but when Jesus finally came, most of God’s people weren’t thrilled. Many people acted like God had missed the mark, and many failed to recognize the gift of Jesus at all. They were spiritually blind to how God was fulfilling the checklist begun way back in Genesis 3 (Mark 4:12).
But the unfolding narrative of Scripture was never just a story about the Israelites or even merely a story about humanity. It was a story about God and his glorious path for rebuilding our brokenness through a perfect Savior.
In this season of Advent, we look back and remember the birth of Jesus. If we want to truly celebrate the gift of our Savior, we must recognize his value. He is no spur-of-the-moment gift or impulse purchase. He is the fulfillment of every prophecy and promise of God.
Looking Forward with Longing
In the season of Advent, we are not anticipating just a beginning but also an ending. Jesus’ life on earth and subsequent resurrection ushered in the final stage of the story that began with God’s glorious creation. The plunge into the darkness of the fall hinged on redemption through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And we now anticipate with hope the final consummation where all God’s children will again live in unbroken relationship with him in the new heavens and new earth.
Advent is the story of the already, but not yet. Jesus has already come. He has purchased our salvation with his blood. He has won the war. And he fulfilled the prophecies and ushered in a new covenant. Yet we are longing for the final consummation, for him to come again.
All throughout the Bible we see our need for a Savior, and Scripture shows us that we have one—both now and forever—in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus is the best gift we could ever receive, the gift God began preparing for us thousands of years ago. A relationship with Jesus is not the kind of gift that’s only exciting for a moment but will be broken and forgotten by the next day. No, Jesus is the only gift that will fulfill the longings of our soul for a lifetime and for all eternity.