One of the things that I decided to do during Advent this season is to read through the Jesus Storybook Bible advent reading plan. This has been so sweet because it has reminded how extensive the build up to the incarnation really was. Humankind was waiting for Jesus for such a long time. The moment that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, we were promised that a Savior was coming. In Genesis 3:15 when God is talking to the serpent He says,
I will put enmity between you and the woman
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
We are immediately promised that someone will come and though Satan will hurt him, this Promised One will defeat Satan for good. Sally Lloyd-Jones paraphrases it beautifully:
Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: “It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you.”
Since that moment, everyone had been waiting for the Promised One. And more and more clues kept appearing as to exactly what he would do and what he would be like. God provided a ram as a sacrifice for Abraham. This showed us that God is faithful to provide a sacrifice. The Levitical laws illustrated for us the cost of being close to God. It showed us that the blood of a spotless lamb needed to be shed to make atonement for us. Judges showed us that we were in need of a Perfect Deliverer because the Israelites kept turning away. Isaiah prophesied that a child would be born and that the government would be on his shoulder.
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
The list goes on and on. People were waiting for generations for this Promised One that would come to set everything right again.
And then he came. As a helpless baby born in a feeding trough. And as the story unfolds we see him fulfill prophecy after prophecy after prophecy. All that time of waiting, God was writing a story. This Great Author was weaving it all into a masterpiece. And looking back it is so clear that every story was whispering Jesus’s name.
This big story is so important to remember and meditate on because it changes everything about how we view our lives.
Advent Informs Our Waiting
We almost always feel like we are in a season of waiting. We always seem to be looking ahead to the next stage of life, or looking for something to make our current stage of life better. We wait for a spouse, a job, clarity for our future, and so many other things. And if we are in Christ, then we are awaiting His return. We are waiting for Him to come and make all things new and to dwell with us.
Similarly, God’s people waited centuries for the Promised One to arrive. They longed for the Messiah to come and battle the evil one. They longed for deliverance. And it felt like God wasn’t answering them. It felt like God had forgotten His promises. One place we glimpse this frustration is in the prophet Malachi 1:2: “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’”
For those of us following the story of the Old Testament, we see how completely ridiculous it was for the Israelites to say this to God. He is steadfast and faithful to a faithless people. And yet they say to Him, “How have you loved us?” as if it hasn’t been clear since the beginning.
And yet we are so quick to question God. We feel the agony of waiting and we look to God and dare to ask how he has loved us. We seem to have chronic covenant amnesia. We forget how faithful God is to us and that He is always working for His glory and our good.
When we take time to remember that God is always on time and has been since the beginning of the world, we can remember that God will also always be on time in our own lives. Not only have we seen His faithfulness in our own lives, but we have seen it in the big story of the world. We can trust his timeline because we serve a God who sees and knows everything, is always working for His glory and our good, and always keeps his promises.
Trusting God with Our Story
At its core, Christmas is a reminder that God always keeps his promises. The baby in the manger that we sing about is God’s covenant faithfulness in flesh. And this baby is a reminder that God is always at work even when it feels like he is not. Looking back on the story of the world, we can see God’s hand through all things.
The same is true for our own story. But sometimes it seems like trusting God’s faithfulness is harder for us. We see that God has been at work in this big story, and yet when it comes to our own story it is so easy to doubt the promises of God. When our lives do not turn out like we expected, we look to God and say, “How have you loved me?” It is in these moments that we have to zoom out. We need to be reminded that God is worth trusting with our story because God is the perfect Author.
This is what Christmas reminds us: if we can trust God with the biggest story ever, we can trust him with our own story too. We must ask Him to pry our fingers off of our expectations and control, and trust Him with our story. We can do this because just as God has control over the story of the whole word, he has control over our story too. And this is worth resting in.
So this Christmas, remember that God is always at work, both in the big story of the world and in your story. Rest in the truth that just as God has been at work since day one in the story of the world, he has been at work since day one in our stories too.