Not Yet but Already
“Mama, we’re in Christmas!” My two-year-old elatedly tells me this every other day or so. It’s the tree, another neighbor putting up their lights, or the doorbell ringing for another package being delivered.
It’s Christmas. And the celebration, the joy, the expectation is palpable…even to us grownups. I love her excitement. It makes me remember my childhood. It makes me so deeply grateful for her, her lovely smile, and her shivering excitement.
But as a grownup, Christmas joy is not just sitting under the tree anymore, is it? Like joy in marriage or joy in our salvation or joy in our children, it isn’t just sitting around.
Joy needs to be sought. Like the wise men seeking the king, each of us seek joy while we carry our pain. Because really, nothing is all that different between November and December. Except our expectations are higher. We miss our loved ones more. The home projects are still unfinished. The wayward child is still just that — wayward. And oh, there is so much to do! Ever felt that? But here is some tenderness that might bring peace to your holiday, whatever that looks like this year.
Nothing had changed between Malachi and Matthew. The world was dark, awful, and broken. But God moved. At first glance, all He did was send a baby. On that dark, lonely night in Bethlehem so long ago, when the promised child arrived, nothing was different from the night before. The inns were still full of souls and stress, and empty of compassion. Mary was still cold, but now exhausted from birth. Joseph likely looked around for help or linens or soap, and there was none. Nothing had changed — yet.
God stepped into the terror and violence and brokenness that was the first century world and responded with a helpless newborn.
But, the angels sang anyway. John leapt for joy in his mother’s womb. The prophetess Anna wept for joy to see Him. The star rose. The wise men journeyed. Why?
In heaven’s eyes, and in those that see with heaven’s eyes, it was as good as done because it was God Himself that started it. Immanuel would grow up, misunderstood and hated. He would walk that awful walk to the cross. He would be made sin for all the sinners. Then the darkness would converge and seemingly be immovable for three terrible hours.
Then, when the wrath of God against all that is wrong with the world and our own souls was satisfied, we would hear His cry again. And it wasn’t an infant’s cry anymore. It was a man’s cry. But not a dying man, as one that cries for his mother on the battlefield. He took that last searing breath and cried, “It is FINISHED!” It was the victor’s cry. The fulcrum of time and eternity. The cry that opened the way to joy we’ve been looking for. Then He willingly laid down His life. And on the third day, raising Him from the dead, God showed heaven and earth that He approved.
We celebrate Christmas with hope because we have heaven’s eyes. Today, we live in the “not yet.” A baby not yet a conqueror, night instead of day, grief instead of joy, loneliness instead of company, rejection instead of intimacy. We’re believers — the ones that believe what can’t be seen now. We can live in the “already.” Regardless of what it looks like right now, what will be…already is, because it is God that started the doing of it. The joy that will come from peace on earth and the reign of the King of Kings — we have it. Right now.
Our joy isn’t in what Christmas is at this moment, our joy is in what is “not yet but already”… all mixed together in one gracious, hope-filled bundle. We are the ones that deeply know pain — but it just loosens our hold on today and tightens our grip on eternity. Today, we are the ones that can sing in the dark anyway.
Can I just apply that for you, friend? Maybe you look around for help or comfort or for the hand of your loved one, and it’s not there. Maybe the night is dark and everything seems undone. But that’s Christmas. It’s in the “not yet” that we have such strong hope. Because we know that “now” is not all there is.
We live in the “not yet” with peace and joy and relief and comfort knowing that what God is doing — is done already.
Photo by Laura Nyhuis on Unsplash