Only a few people were really prepared. Over the years, the message had lost its impact, even on the faithful. No one really believed it anymore. Not now. Not after numerous false alarms. Dashed hopes and bogus promises had numbed them to the possibility. They responded more readily to the weather report than a prophet’s report.
The idea had become a tradition they pulled out of their closet once a year. The ancient writings that declared God’s promised Messiah were read at religious services. Only a minority, however, believed in their hearts that it would—or could—happen. Fewer even cared. After all, one can’t stand on tip-toe but so long, they reasoned.
But there was a few, maybe six in all, who believed. There was eighty-four year old, Anna. Her husband died when she was a young lady. Since then, she stayed at the temple praying, serving, and waiting. Then there was old Simeon. He said God told him he would see the fulfillment of the promise in his lifetime. Others had said the same thing and died with broken dreams. Not Simeon. He hung on for dear life. He and Anna felt something stirring in the air.
Then there was the four. Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph. Each one had their own miracle story to tell. They all, though at varying degrees, believed. They didn’t understand the when or the how or the where. But they knew. One day, and soon, ritual would bow to reality. Century old prayers and prophecies would be answered. Even so, what they expected would still jump up and surprise them. Actually, it would surprise the whole world.
Six hundred years had passed since the last prophet went public about the event. By now, they were passed off as religious fanatics and mystics. Accused of sensationalizing the message, these priests, kings, and farmers, turned prophets, were indicted by the religious system as uneducated, at worst, and overzealous, at best.
No one was prepared for what was coming. Not a one was ready. Not really. Even the six had no idea how big this would be.
Then it happened.
It was a normal, every-day-kind-of-day. Taxes being paid. Forms being filled out. Hotels, hotelling. Preachers, preaching. Businesses, businessing. Fathers, fathering. Mothers, birthing.
After centuries passed, it happened as they said it would and where they said it would.
“In the twinkling of an eye” God appeared. He came. And even the expectant ones were taken back at how it all unraveled. He didn’t come to the largest crowd of worshipers, the fastest growing synagogue in town. Or to the priests. Or to the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees.
God came in the form of baby to a stinky, smelly cave where animals were housed. He came to a carpenter and his teenage wife. He waited patiently for cows to finish their evening meal then lay down in their feeding trough and slept. As God lovingly gazed upon the human version of Himself, He knew that one day this little body would be stretched out on a cross, crucified for the sins of the world, and then, He would raise Him from the dead.
And it all played out exactly like that.
Here we are today saying we believe He’ll do it again. That God’s son, Jesus Christ, will come back to earth for the curtain call, the crescendo of His Lordship.
“Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
It’s what we say we believe.
We don’t learn much from history. Like the first century Jews, we’ve been anesthetized to the message. Our doctrines state that we believe He’s coming, but the message we live out isn’t always so clear. It’ll be “like a thief in the night,” says Paul (1Thes 5:2). No one’s ever ready for a thief. Many won’t be ready for Christ, either. We weren’t the first time, and what’s more, many of us won’t be the second time around.
Just as sure as He came to Bethlehem, He’s coming to Boston. He promised He would. People think we’ve outlived the prophecies. “Awww…preachers have been saying that for years! If it hasn’t happened in two thousand years it’s not going to happen now!” they protest.
It’s pre-Bethlehem, all over again.
The Lord came to Capernaum. Guess what? He’s coming for Charlotte. As the Savior Babe made the trip with his family from Egypt to Nazareth, he passed by the city of Ashdod. He’s coming to pass through the city of Atlanta, too.
Christmas reminds me that people haven’t changed a lot over the years. We think we’re better, more spiritually competent than the Jews were 2000 years ago. I’m not so sure about that. Think of this. No one desired to see the Messiah more than the Jews, and yet, when He came, no one missed Him more than they did.
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come!” (Mark 13:33).
You ready for Christmas?
Most people were not prepared for the first Christmas. Get ready! You don’t want to miss the second one.