As our choir was practicing one of our songs for Christmas, I was thinking about the seemingly conflicting messages we hear. One verse of “Tell the World” says “Tell the hopeless He’s the Promise now fulfilled before their eyes. Tell the restless in His presence ev’ry need is satisfied.” But historically, the birth of Jesus didn’t exactly fulfill these promises, at least not on its own. The angels proclaimed to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people… ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased’” (Luke 2:10,14 ESV). Although the Baby Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of a child born of a virgin in Bethlehem, it wasn’t until roughly three decades later that Jesus Himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
While Jesus’ birth was a step closer to the completion of the good news, it would be more than 30 years before He would fulfill the requirements of being a Savior through His death and resurrection. But even that is not the end of the story. We still live in the between times—knowing that salvation has been made possible and sanctification has begun, but still awaiting the perfecting of the world and our bodies. It is good news that Jesus was born, but it’s not the best news. It is good news that Jesus died on our behalf, but that’s an inadequate message. And it is good news that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the Father. But if the story ended there we would still be without hope in this world. The good news won’t be completed until that day when Jesus returns. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
In the meantime, we continue to live with brokenness, mourning, poverty, blindness, and captivity. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23-24).
We tend to approach Christmas as if the birth of Jesus is the whole story, the only good news needed in a fallen world. It’s often implied that if you just believe that God was born as a baby in a manger then all your problems will go away and you’ll be filled with peace and joy. It’s little wonder that it can be an overwhelmingly depressing time of year. Not only are there cultural expectations that can be hard to live up to, but the message proclaimed by the church can sometimes add to the burden. If the Baby Jesus is the answer to all our problems, why is there still so much suffering in the world?
We cannot leave Jesus in the manger as a baby, nor can we leave Him on the cross as a Savior. Neither is He still in the grave. He is in heaven for now, but one day He will return and make everything right. All the suffering will be ended and the world will be made new. Then the good news will be finished. Then we will rejoice wholeheartedly. Till then we hold on and endure by faith, awaiting with hope the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Until then: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” -Romans 15:13.
By Dawn Rutan
(Dawn Rutan serves as Director of Finance for the Advent Christian General Conference.)