I found a late candlelight service on Christmas Eve. It was traditional, choral arrangements, a few carols, reading the scriptures that recount the birth of our Savior and the ritual lighting of the candles followed by a benediction. The service reinforced the comfort of knowing that there is a plan and an unseen kingdom already in place presided over by a loving God awaiting our arrival. Then, the cold exit to the car and a return to the news of the day.
The minister spoke of a plan. Did that plan end with the birth of Jesus in a barn or even with his sacrificial death on a hill outside Jerusalem?
Our world is filled to the brim with trouble; horrific events of every type assail our senses each day. While the fashionable ceremony provides a pleasant respite, a large number of folks attending Christmas services are in church only one day each year. This one occasion is the opportunity to give those folks something substantial that transcends the routine; a hope and a promise we seldom hear and the certainty of a life we can barely imagine.
There is a message I have never heard on Christmas and there is a plan. We only glanced superficially at part of it last night. The fall of man in the Garden followed by God’s promise of redemption was covered, but what does that mean to bulk of humanity?
God promised a redeemer. When Eve brought forth her first son, she thought that was God’s answer. Instead, Cain was the first murderer. We had to wait another two thousand years before our Creator unveiled the lineage of that hope. In Genesis 22: 15-18, He identified the One to come through the line of Abraham. Did you ever wonder why He picked the Jews to carry His word and ultimately provide our redemption? God explained His reasoning. He called the Jews “a stiff necked stubborn people.” They had to be! They would wait another two thousand years for that glorious day we now celebrate as Christmas. During this not so serene couple of millennia, the Jews were subjected to slavery, oppression by numerous conquerors and a rather long walk in the desert. Somehow, they stuck it out and clung to the promise of the One to come. When he arrived, they didn’t recognize Him!
We also have a promise. Jesus warned us of the turmoil and vicious persecutions his followers would face. He knew the world that we inhabit and foresaw the physical poverty His own would endure while surrounded by the opulent lifestyles enjoyed by the profiteers of evil. He advised us of rulers who enrich themselves and their cronies through war, deceit, political corruption and mass murder. Jesus counseled us to hang on and hold on to the promise that he will return!
It isn’t getting better. In fact, he told us it will get worse! It has been almost two thousand years. The Church of Philadelphia, his own as described in Revelation, Chapter 5, are hanging on by our fingernails. As we confront the prospects of global terrorism, massive starvation on a worldwide scale, rampant pandemics of horrifying diseases and nuclear war coupled with the toll of trying valiantly to provide for our families while being plundered by corruption, it isn’t easy. But we have a promise!
Jesus told us in Matthew 6:28,32&33(NIV), “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” He said, “For the Pagans run after these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” We will have what we need, perhaps not all that we want, but we CAN survive just as the Jews did until that day. When it feels overwhelming, like life just can’t go on, our Lord to us to “fear not, look up. Your redemption draws nigh.”
We celebrate in magnificent, pristine settings the night Jesus came to redeem us. It wasn’t that pretty for Mary and Joseph. They were lodged in a barn with farm animals and the scent of hay and sheep dung to succor them.
When he returns to claim his own, it won’t be pretty either. He will return to a world of blood and fire! Revelation 19 describes the scene. “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
We don’t know when that day will come. One thing is certain, though. That day is now roughly two thousand years closer for us than the day that promise was made. Jesus gave us the Great Commission, to stand up in his name and spread the word of his return. He said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33(NIV).
So, go tell it on the mountain! Jesus is coming back! Jesus is coming back! Jesus is coming back!
The Jews endured two thousand years of unspeakable hardships, pogroms and persecutions, even repeated attempts to exterminate them to the last man, woman and child, awaiting the promised Savior. When he arrived as a baby, they didn’t recognize him.
Jesus gave his word, “I will return.” That was two thousand years ago. When he does as KING OF KINGS, will he recognize you?