Now that Christmas is past, we enter a new advent season – a time of holy expectation of a second Christmas, the birth of the Son of God in us, the birth of the kingdom of God for the whole world. We await the arrival of a new day, the beginning of a new age, a new time for humankind.
When in history has this been more urgent and more necessary than now? Anyone who is deeply concerned about the times cannot help feeling that the whole earth trembles and shakes under the immediate danger of terrible powers that are threatening to be unleashed. Humankind holds within its grasp the colossal energy and power to literally destroy all life upon planet Earth. Daily violence and bloodshed are a reality around the globe, while closer to home feelings of hatred and animosity are poured out upon those who are unwanted or looked down upon.
Into this situation bursts the power of expectation of the holy advent of a new day, the dawning of a new time, the coming of God’s love through his son, Jesus. We realize deep in our hearts that this is what happened two thousand years ago, “when the time was fulfilled” (Mark 1:15). This is the truth and essence of that which is to come.
People’s hearts must be moved by this great moment, this direct action of God. We must be shaken loose from all our false supports, our evil ways; we must be roused from our sleep and stupor. Only then will we be able to hear the message of Advent and grasp the importance and significance of Christmas. We must be shaken again and again by the birth of him who is the first and the last and who holds all in his hands. We must be struck by the fact that God sent his very son into the world to redeem the world. We are constantly called to “be mindful of how Christ’s birth took place” (Eberhard Arnold, 1934).
This is not the conventional experience of Christmas and its comfortable and satisfying holiday atmosphere. Humankind needs desperately to find this deeper meaning of Christmas which transforms people's hearts and consequently their whole lives and relationships. This is the eternal mystery of Christmas, its great power and light, its everlasting gospel of love, unity and purity, its infinite joy and gladness. We must discover what it means that the kingdom of God was born on this earth as a little child, when the time was fulfilled.
We live in a time where the groaning need and dividedness of humankind is especially to be felt and recognized. Countless people are subjected to hatred, violence and oppression which go unchecked. The injustice and corruption which exist today are causing many voices to be raised to protest and cry out that something be done. Many men and women are being moved to sacrifice much in the struggle for justice, freedom, and peace. There is a movement afoot in our time, a movement which is growing, awakening.
Yet this terrific human need and burden of the times causes us to see how weak and powerless we are to change this. Then we must see that if we are to advocate change, we must start with ourselves. We must recognize that we as individuals are to blame for social injustice, oppression, and the downgrading of others, whether personal or on a broader plane. We must see that a revolution must take place against all that destroys life. This revolution must become a revolution different from any the world has ever seen. God must intervene and lead such a revolution with his Spirit and his justice and his truth. The present misery, need, and decay must pass away and the new day of the Son of Man must dawn. This is the advent of God’s coming. This is the very essence of Christmas: that he comes to make all things new and pure, that he comes to establish his kingdom here on the earth (Rev. 21:5).
From the introduction to the 1965 edition of When the Time Was Fulfilled