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Just before the ascension of Jesus, the apostles ask whether Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). They saw an earthly kingdom as the consummation of all things. Today, Christians have swung in the other direction. We see our individual-self reaching heaven as the consummation of all things. This is especially evident in theologies that envision a period in the future where the church is present in heaven enjoying other-worldly blessings while being absent on earth escaping this-worldly tribulations.
However, the celebration of Christmas enables us to see that the consummation of God’s redemptive plan defies such simplistic either-or ends. The goal of redemption is neither a mere earthly kingdom nor a mere inhabitation of a heavenly world. Rather, the celebration of the birth of Jesus confronts with this truth: the goal of God’s plan in Jesus is the merging of the two worlds – heaven and earth. Heaven breaks into the earth through the eternal King born in the likeness of a mortal servant, and this story finds its culmination with the God of Heavens dwelling with the people of earth. (Rev. 21:3)
When the prophets of the Old Testament envisioned the coming of the Messiah, they saw just one advent that encompassed both the suffering and the glory of the Messiah — the glory coming about through the suffering. But as God unfolded history, the New Testament helps us understand that the one advent of the Messiah has two facets to it: The Son of God who has come as the Suffering Servant for His people will come as the King of Glory of His people.
This truth must shape our understanding of Christmas. As an annual event, we celebrate the birth of Jesus not merely by looking backwards at the historical event of His humble birth, but also by looking forward to the future reality of His glorious return. Yet, there is also a personal, ongoing celebration of Christmas that occurs through the year. When sinners are converted, being forgiven by God and drawn to Him through repentance and faith in Christ, this is nothing but the unseen birth of Jesus in their hearts (Jn. 3:8). Over time, this humble birth of Jesus in the hearts of sinners becomes visible and public. Those who have been born-again grow and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, as they fellowship with other saints (Eph. 4:13). This is a visible demonstration of the power of God over the person’s life that anticipates the full blessings bestowed on the citizens of the kingdom of God when the Holy King Jesus returns.
Therefore, as we celebrate the season of Christmas, may we celebrate not just the birth of Christ the Servant who has come, but also His coronation as Jesus the King who is to come! (Matt. 2:6)