On Christmas, we celebrate Christ's birth, but also hold a vigil for His return.
In this final week of Advent, pray with us for the world and in remembrance of God's promise that He has come and is coming again.
Today's prayer guide leads us into Christmas.
(Photo: Children in Ethiopia hold candles during a candlelight vigil. 2009 Jon Warren/World Vision)
When I was young, I loved cartoons. My mom would reluctantly allow me to sit in front of the television for hours after school, delaying homework, to enjoy just one more of my favorites.
One of my favorite cartoon characters was Wimpy on the cartoon Popeye. In any given episode, you could find a cloddish and rotund Wimpy assaulting his best friends for his next fix of hamburger. He would repeat to each of them, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” More often than not, his fellows were more than willing to accommodate him. Only rarely did Tuesday actually come.
The last line of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is an acrostic that translates from Latin as: “Tomorrow, I will be there.” This too seems like a promise prolonged in its delivery, and yet that is the very meaning of Christmas. God has condescended himself to accommodate us and come to earth as a child. He has promised to return to us again as a redemptive solution to death and sin. Yet tomorrow has not come. The tab on all of those burgers of hope has not been settled.
As the people of hope, we celebrate Christmas as a reminder that He will be here tomorrow; His coming is as sure to us as the sun rising. Yet in God’s infinite wisdom, He delays. To celebrate Christmas as only the remembrance of Christ’s birth and not also as a vigil for his second coming is to miss the reason he came initially.
The bookends of humanity’s history is God dwelling among His people in a garden, and the end of that same story is God reigning and living among his people in a new Jerusalem. Christ’s birth was the catalyst to the culmination of that plan, another garden-like state, but better. The new state will be better than the first because sin will have been judged, cast out, and no longer be a possibility.
The kingdom has come to Earth! He will be here tomorrow. Until He appears, we hold vigil and wait and remind those around us that He came once and is coming again.
This Christmas, we will light the final Advent candle, the Christ candle. The Latin word for “votive” means vow or promise. As you light that candle, remember the promise that He has come and is coming again. As you pray, pray for those near you and those far away in need of a Messiah and the peace He alone can bring. Tomorrow cannot come soon enough.
Prayer Guide for Christmas
An antiphon is a Greek musical term meaning “opposite voice.” Typically, an antiphon is a responsive song or chant. Each day, read the provided Psalm and pray it out loud or silently back to God. Remember the vow and promise that He has come and is coming:
December 20 – Psalm 40
December 21 – Psalm 97
December 22 – Psalm 69
December 23 – Psalm 22
December 24 – Psalm 118
Brian Rayburn is a former pastor and currently serves as the Christian Formation Coordinator for World Vision USA.
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