For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
The Israelites were a people in-between the times. They had been given all the promises of God and a promised land in which to dwell (Rom. 9:4). But they were awaiting the advent of their Messiah. All those who truly loved and worshiped Yahweh and had faith in the Savior’s coming inherited salvation, but it was not final.
The first advent of Jesus–his birth in a grungy manger in a village called Bethlehem–was the beginning of hope for God’s people. Jesus’ first coming was the fulfillment of the promise God made to Israel that a Messiah, an anointed King, would come to bring salvation to Israel. He accomplished this salvation through his death and resurrection. This salvation event was not just for Israel, however. Even at his dedication in the temple as an infant, Simeon recognized the baby Jesus as much more than an Israelite king: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
For all who believe (i.e. have faith) in Jesus, God gives them the right to become children of God (John 1:12-13). But life isn’t perfect at that point. Even Christians admit that the world and their own lives are broken, horrifically broken. Christians–Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, male or female, young or old–have inherited salvation, indeed; but it is not final.
Like the Israelites, Christians are people in-between the times. We have the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. We have faith that his first advent brought about his death and resurrection which inaugurated a new covenant. We have the hope of eternal life. So we wait for his second advent when he will make our salvation final. Paul calls this our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). At his second advent, he will bring the new heavens and the new earth. There will be no more crying, no more pain, no more sin (Rev. 21:4). There will be nothing unclean in this new world (Rev. 21:27). We will be perfect. The world will be perfect.
The happiness and peace and music and joy and fun and laughter and good food and generosity you experience at Christmas ultimately points to a world where we will experience nothing but that and a million other charms we cannot begin to imagine. Christmas ultimately points to the fact that Jesus was born for one purpose: to shed his blood to create a new people for God so that they might worship him in glory for all eternity in a new world.
Do you rejoice in the future hope of Advent? Do you believe it will actually happen? Celebrate Christmas this year knowing and treasuring the fact that your Savior will return once more to meet you face-to-face, make your salvation final, and restore this world to be everything it was intended to be.