Do you remember how excited you were for Christmas when you were a kid? Did you shake the presents under the tree trying to guess what they were? Maybe you had an Advent calendar that counted down the days to Christmas. There was something special about this time of year when I was a child. There still is, but so many of us have lost it and are looking for it again.
I think I’ve figured out where it went. When you were a kid, you didn’t have to go into the attic to get the tree and the decorations out. You weren’t the one who had to put them all up. You didn’t have to fight for parking at the mall or stand in long lines to buy one gift. You didn’t have to stress about a budget or the food that you were going to have to prepare. In having to deal with all of this, many of us quit anticipating Christmas and started dreading it.
When Jesus was eight days old, he was taken to the temple to be dedicated to God. Luke 2:25 says, “At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel” (NLT). I can I shine Simeon each day, waiting in the temple, with the same anticipation that a child has for Christmas. He fulfilled his responsibilities daily, but he was still actively looking for and anticipating the Messiah.
If you find yourself looking for the magic of Christmas this year, go back to what it’s all about – anticipating the savior of the world. Even as we celebrate the first arrival of our savior, we need to be anticipating His return. Many of us spend a lifetime thinking, discussing and debating His first visit without anticipating His second coming. Just like Simeon, we need to keep an eye out for Jesus. We still have work to do, but there’s joy in the anticipation of a savior coming soon if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.
Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash
Other than the birth of Jesus, the only Biblical record we have of His childhood is found in Luke 2:41-52. Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem to sacrifice for the Passover. When He was 12, they headed home with a large group from their annual trip. They got about a day’s journey away from Jerusalem when they realized He wasn’t with them. They frantically went back to Jerusalem to look for Jesus. When they found Him a couple of days later, He was in the Temple teaching and learning. After they chastised Him, Jesus replied, “Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business?” (AMP)
What I see here in Joseph and Mary is a mirror of many Christians today. There have been so many current events and technological breakthroughs that make us believe the return of Jesus is close. We have begun to frantically look for Jesus to return because of them. We spend most of our time looking up instead of down. I have a feeling that when He does return, those people will almost want to chastise Him and ask, “Where have you been? What took you so long?”
I’ve looked through a lot of scriptures to see where it tells us to look for His return. What I read are a lot of verses that tell us to be busy about our Father’s business while we wait. Acts 1:11, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Matthew 24:51, “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” (all ESV)
Yes, we are to wait for His appearing, but as the time draws near, we shouldn’t frantically be looking for it. We should be frantically occupied with the Father’s business. The signs of the times aren’t to get us to look up and pack our bags. They’re to get us to look to the harvest and save as many as we can. It’s ok to be excited at what these times bring, but let that excitement turn into doing everything you can to win souls. Jesus’ desire is that none should perish. When He returns, let Him find you working in the vineyard instead of sitting on a rooftop looking up.
Recently a friend of mine and I were discussing Jesus’ return. We discussed how every generation has preached it starting with the early church. They thought Jesus was going to return in their lifetime. They sold all they had and pooled their money together so they could get the message of Jesus out to as many people as possible quickly. Here we are around 2,000 years later and we are still waiting. The difference now is there is no urgency among believers about His return. Believers have very little motivation in them to share their faith.
We know Jesus will return because He told us He would in John 14. In verses 2-3 He said, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (NLT)” He made a promises to return and He will fulfill it. We don’t know when everything will be ready on His end, so we have to be ready on our end.
He told the parable of the ten virgins waiting on the groom. When the groom didn’t show up quickly, it became apparent that not everyone would be ready. Five had enough oil in their lamps and five didn’t. Five were in it for the long haul. They had reserves of oil to keep their lamps burning. What group do you and I belong in? Have we given up on His return? Have we run out of oil? It was late in the night when he returned. It was past the time they thought he would. We are seeing that now as people run out of the oil of urgency for His return.
When I was a kid, it seemed every Sunday we heard someone say, “It could be today! Are you ready?” We sang songs like “We Shall See The King” and “We Shall Behold Him”. We see very few of those songs now and I can’t remember how long it’s been since another believer asked about his return before my friend did. I understand we can’t have our eyes to the sky constantly, but we do need to remember it could be any day. We need to live like it could be today.
We need to serve as if He is coming soon. We need to share our faith with the lost with urgency. What if He came back and found His Church asleep and without any oil burning? My dad always told me, “Live like He’s coming back today. Plan abs prepare like He won’t come until later.” He was telling me to keep my eyes to the skies, but also make sure I have enough oil to last a lifetime in case He comes back later rather than sooner. I don’t know when He will return, but I know He will. Until then, give me oil in my lamp keep me burning til the break of day.
I refuse to live an ordinary Christian life. I will not be in the habit of going to church, I will be the Church. I will be the hands and feet of Jesus. I will choose to open my eyes to the needs of those around me and fight for those who have no strength. I will not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to their plea. I will give all my strength to defend the weak and the broken. I cannot sit idly by and hope someone else will do what God called each of us to do.
I will stand for what is right and true. I will honor God in my word, deed and life. I will be a leader and not a follower. A pioneer who is not afraid of the unknown. I will forge ahead when the nights are dark, the roads are blocked and the mountains are too steep so that I can accomplish that which I am called to do. I will not fail or allow others around me to either. I will push, challenge and motivate them to continue on even when they are out of hope, breath and faith.
I will not wait until the battle is nigh before I prepare. I will pray up, store up and lift up so I will get up, build up and live up to my calling. I will cast down every stronghold, tear down every imagination and beat down the fear that would try to prevent me from walking this path and running this race. I will sharpen my Sword and grow my Shield by being a man of prayer and God’s Word. I will do what it takes to win this war.
I will build the wall with one hand on a brick and the other on my Sword. I will stand ready to defend the work that God has called me to. I will not falter. I will not waiver. I will not be distracted by the things of this world. I will remain focused on the fight and keep my eyes on the prize. I may get struck down, but I will not be destroyed. I may be mocked, but I will not cower. I will stand in the gap where others have fallen.
I know that Christ is coming and time is short. I must choose to act now and not procrastinate. The sun is setting. The night is near. I will not rest. I will not let up or give up. I will work until He comes and gets me. And when He comes, He will have no trouble recognizing me. I will be in His fields laboring as He asked. I will have spent time with Him and He with me. It is only then that I will hear Him say, “Well done. Come and find your rest.” Until then I won’t let up, slow down or give in. There is too much to be done and too many others living ordinary Christian lives.