Advent is a time when Christians prepare their hearts for Christmas and reflect on the miracle of Christ's birth. But we are now living in a time of hindsight. We can look back on the Nativity story and see how God brought salvation into the world. But often, we know the story too well; it seems obvious and predictable to us how events unfolded, because we've heard the details so often.
But have you ever stopped to imagine what it must have been like to see the story unfolding in front of you?
The Jewish people had waited for the Messiah's coming, longing for the day when sin's weight would be lifted from their shoulders. They held the prophecies of Isaiah close to their heart; but they had no idea how these words would become reality. They yearned for the day when the Messiah would come and give them new hearts and restore their world to God's control.
Can you imagine the incredible joy they must have felt - the intense relief - when the people of the Nativity story realized Jesus was the Savior they'd been waiting for? The light had come into the world, illuminating those who had only lived in the darkness of sin and ignorance. It shone on a world cold and harsh, but it shone brightly. The time of the eternal King's reign, prophesied over centuries, was finally here.
Advent is a time when we try to imagine what it would be like to live in darkness and to see the light of Christ come into the world. As believers, we live in the light of Christ's life and death; we know the next chapter of the Messiah's story - of our story. But for those who loved God, two thousand years ago, the way he came was startling and miraculous.
Although John's gospel has no traditional retelling of Christ's birth, John 1:9 reveals the anticipation and wonder that story brought into the lives of believers. Jesus is the true light; his light is for everyone; and finally - after centuries of anticipation - he was coming into the world.
I am deeply thankful to live at a time when salvation has come into the world and the hope of the godly has seen its realization in Jesus. But I also know that we are still waiting for our salvation to be complete - for God to make not only our hearts right, but our world, too. We live in the time of "already, but not yet" - which is still so much better than just "not yet."
As we enter into the last few days of Advent, and as Christmas bears down on us, stop and try to imagine living in a time when Jesus was unknown - and then think of how incredible his appearing truly is. I hope that I never take his birth for granted or become so familiar with it that it loses its glory for me.
The Light has come!