Yesterday we looked at how we should anticipate the King and His second advent just like the Wise Men anticipated His first advent. We now have our own “Star” to turn our eyes towards and to follow. Today we will look at how the Old Testament prepared the way for our Lord and how we now have the same opportunity to prepare the way for His second coming and how we need to be prepared and ready.
It’s Christmas Eve and we are almost to Christmas day, the day we have been preparing for at least the past month. Whether we are going out to buy that last minute gift, or we are getting food ready for Christmas day, we are all probably busy preparing in some way today. I am constantly reminded of the forefathers of our faith in the Old Testament who gave us a little glimpse of the coming Christ and helped to prepare the world for him.
Joseph, for example, was left for dead by his brothers and when given the opportunity to get his brothers back he had mercy on them, and then he gave credit to God, saying “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” –Gen 50:20. Jesus was placed on a cross by the very people of whom He was supposed to be the King, yet during his pain and agony he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
Moses delivered the Israelites from pharaoh and his army. Likewise, Christ delivered the world from death and sin for those who choose to follow him. Abraham followed the commands of God and left his home country, and later was willing to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac. God was willing to provide Jesus, His son, as a sacrifice for us. The list goes on and on, but the point of mentioning these patriarchs is to recognize that they were preparing the way for the Lord and showing us a glimpse of what was to come.
Christmas is a reminder to us also, that as we prepare for our celebration tomorrow, we also need to believe that Jesus will come back to this earth (maybe tomorrow) and in the same way prepare ourselves and our hearts for his coming and the great celebration. When I think of being prepared I am reminded of the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25.
1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
9“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13
None of the ten knew when the bridegroom was coming, they only knew that he was coming. When he did come, five were wise and five were foolish. The only difference between the wise and foolish was in their preparation, or lack thereof. We have the same privilege as our patriarchs of knowing that Jesus is coming, yet it’s left up to each one of us to choose whether we will be prepared. I promise you that it’s a celebration you do not want to miss out on!
“Let every heart prepare Him room”.
This week, as we look forward to Christmas and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus, we will look at his birth and what that means going forward for us. Just as the wise men looked for and followed the star to find Jesus, we also have a “Star”, Jesus, to look for and to follow.
As Christmas draws near I, like so many others, am filled with anticipation. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year. I remember growing up as a kid and being filled with so much excitement and anticipation counting down the days and looking forward to Christmas Day! When I think back to the anticipation I felt, it reminds me of the anticipation that the wise men must have felt. No one really knows for sure where the wise men came from, but it is believed that they could have come from the Babylon area, a journey of 800 miles. If that’s true, they must have really been waiting for and anticipating the sign of the star that would show them the way to the “King of the Jews” –Matthew 2:2. They must have been watching and waiting for the day when that star would appear so they could honor and worship the King. Once they saw that star, they followed and never looked backed, but followed that star until they found him.
If I were to relate this story of the wise men to myself and the time we live in now, following the first advent of Jesus, I am reminded of the anticipation I have for the second advent of Jesus when he will come back and when God himself comes back and “makes all things new”- Revelation 21:5.
Romans 8:23-25 beautifully states how we should be anticipating the return and coming of our King!
“23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
The prayer that I have for myself and for everyone who reads this is that we anticipate and long for the coming of the King as much as the wise men did. May we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly”, may we turn our eyes to the risen “Star”, Jesus, and follow him and never look back, until God sends him back to this earth at his second advent.
Isaac Watts published the words for “Joy to the World” in 1719. A century after Watts wrote the words, Dr. Lowell Mason, heavily influenced by Handel’s “Messiah”, set the words to music. Watts wrote the famous carol after meditating on Psalm 98. Psalm 98:4 reads, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.” This is precisely what Watts was trying to do by writing the hymn.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.
He’ll rule the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, and wonders of His love.
The first verse of the carol talks of Jesus coming to earth. It does not talk about Jesus’ coming as a special baby, but more importantly his coming as King. There is no mention in the entire carol of Bethlehem, a manger, shepherds, or a special star. In fact, much of the carol has more to do with Jesus’ future, second coming, than with his birth as a baby.
The third verse of the carol mentions “thorns infesting the ground” and “the curse”, both references to God telling Adam that the ground would be cursed as a consequence of his sin (Genesis 3:17-18). Because Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, mankind would have to work to produce food, and instead of abundant crops growing effortlessly, now weeds and thorns would be plentiful. However, the carol is looking forward to a day when there will be no more sin, sorrow or thorns. We know all too well, that that day has not yet come, but we look forward with confidence to the day Jesus will return to earth again and all the consequences of sin will be defeated.
Although much of “Joy to the World” tells the story of Jesus second coming, it is still a wonderful song for us to sing at Christmastime. As we celebrate Christmas, it is important for us to remember that Jesus did not stay a baby in a manger. His story does not end with his death on the cross, or even his resurrection. We sing of “Joy to the World” because we know that one day Jesus is coming back to set up his Father’s perfect, never-ending, kingdom here on earth!
What is the end of the Christmas Story?
Perhaps when Mary was treasuring these things in her heart and the shepherds were returning and praising God? (Luke 2:19,20)
Or maybe when the magi were worshiping and presenting their treasures? (Matthew 2:11)
Too often, that is where we stop celebrating in December. A sweet baby (the Son of God) is born in humble surroundings and certain segments of the population respond with fitting praise and wonder. The end. But, as we have seen in our devotions this week, that is far from the end of the story. I have enjoyed reading through Luke especially at this time of year to see once again what we are REALLY celebrating.
Jesus came as a baby – and what a great opening act that was (you, know the opening act that followed thousands of years of God setting the stage)!! And 30 years later all sorts of people (fishermen, tax-collectors, sinners, chief priests, foreigners, the sick and diseased, teachers of the law, governors and kings and politicians, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, men, women and children) all prepare to meet this traveling preacher, teacher, healer, miracle maker, story-teller, leader, servant. His favorite topic is always the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1). Through his teaching, his parables, and his miracles, the world sees a clearer picture of God than they have ever seen before. The son truly has his Father’s resemblance.
And, he also is committed to doing his Father’s will – even when that means death on the cross, crucified as a criminal, to take away the sins of the world. His followers are crushed as they were sure this Jesus was going to set up the Kingdom on earth and begin his reign right then. How could they have been so wrong?
Thankfully, that is still not the end. Three days later…the tomb is empty! Joy to the World!! Jesus appears to his disciples and uses Scripture to explain to them again how the Old Testament foretold what must take place.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:22-28
A way was needed for both Jews and Gentiles to be washed clean before they could be full citizens of God’s Kingdom. And Jesus’ death made the way. And his resurrection gives the hope for a future resurrection. For there is one more key element that must take place before Jesus will begin his reign over all the world and the Kingdom of God will fully begin. This is hinted above in Luke 24:47 and spelled out in Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
There have been many godly men and women who have died while preaching the gospel – but still the good news has not reached all people in all nations. The Church of God mourned the death of a very special and faithful pastor, Rex Cain, just this week. But the mourning was not without hope because the Christmas story isn’t over yet.
In the final verses of Luke (24:51), Jesus ascends into heaven. When the same event is recorded in the book of Acts (Luke’s sequel) the disciples are told, “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). The best is yet to come!
The end of the Christmas story is a new beginning. A beginning that is still to come. When Jesus breaks through the clouds at his Second Coming this will be the start of his reign on Earth over all who have been faithful. The dead in Christ will rise and we will see Jesus coming – not as a babe but as a triumphant warrior and king. A new heaven and a new earth will worship him and his Father.
I pray I will be found ready. And I pray you will be found ready. Let’s get to work and tell the nations!
“Come, Lord Jesus!”(Revelation 22:20 b)
Weekly Summary – Luke 7-12
These chapters in Luke show us some of the core parts of Jesus’ ministry on earth and are overflowing with good lessons and teachings for us today. The Israelites of Jesus’ time had grown complacent and worldly. Their leaders used the Mosaic laws and rules they had invented to serve their own pride and greed and had therefore prevented many others from learning the truth of God’s will. Jesus had the monumental task of taking a group of people who were rooted in worldliness and shaking them out of their complacency and sin, showing them the path to salvation, and then preparing them for long term life as the Church with the Holy Spirit to guide them. This is the most recent and greatest act of God to reconcile the world to himself in order to save us from our sins. Each step in God’s plan has prepared the way for the next, and just as John the Baptist prepared the people for Jesus’ ministry, so too the Holy Spirit is working today to prepare us for Jesus’ second coming. Today we have many of the same societal issues that Jesus dealt with in his first coming. Our culture today idolizes the greedy and prideful while openly encouraging blatantly sinful lifestyles. There are a lot of lessons in these chapters that will help us see the world as God sees it so that we can turn from our worldly ways and live a changed life for Christ. It takes a lot of hard work, and the world will not reward you for it, but that is why we have the Church, to help us through.
I have enjoyed going through these chapters this week, and I hope some of my thoughts made sense and have helped you.
“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8