Can you believe that this is the last Monday of November 2015? We will never see November 2015 again after this day ends. Wow! This year has passed by so quickly. Thanksgiving 2015 is now a part of the history books and soon Christmas will be here. Are you ready for Christmas? Do you have your shopping finished or at the very least a shopping list made? I am not ready but I will be by the time Christmas comes. I hope. Then again ready or not December 25th will roll around in about 25 days whether I am ready or not! That’s just how time rolls, with or without us.
I remember as a child how I looked forward to this time of year. This was when the big Christmas catalogs would come and it was so much fun pouring over every one of them and dreaming of what I wanted from Santa. No wonder some smart marketing professionals came up with the “Wish Book” marketing campaign. I would wish for this and wish for that until I turned the page and found something bigger and better to wish for. When my own cherubs were young they poured over the Christmas catalogs pretty much in the same way that I had as a child. They dreamed and wished for many things and had such fun times hoping for that one big surprise under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. That was part of the fun of Christmas.
Isn’t it really fun to have something wonderful to celebrate? Isn’t it a joy to decorate for Christmas and to plan the menu and the gifts and the parties and the special programs that are all about the birth of Jesus Christ? I even love Santa and the concept of Santa because Santa loves to surprise good little boys and girls for being good all year long. When my children began to question whether or not Santa was real I would tell them that Santa must be someone who loves them a lot to give them such lovely gifts on Christmas morning. Santa still brings gifts, albeit small ones, to my adult children on Christmas morning if they are home. Most Christmases Santa leaves me some candy or tea and cookies or something that tells me I am loved. I like that too.
Just as children look forward to Christmas each year because they are hoping that they will get something they have longed for and dreamed of having all year long I look forward to Christmas as a reminder that heaven is coming. The birth of Jesus is important to celebrate because it is the beginning of the story of grace being poured out on the earth to and for all people. Some days I can hardly wait for my turn to leave this earth as I long for heaven. Heaven is being prepared for us right now and I long to see it, don’t you?
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:1-8, (English Standard Version or ESV).
What a description of heaven…can you see it? The Apostle John wrote this description of what he saw and I know in the deepest part of my being that it is true. The first thing we read here is that there will be a new heaven and a new earth as the old sin filled earth and heavens that we have become accustomed to will be gone. The second thing we read is that there will be no more sea which won’t bother me because I can’t swim! What do you think of when you think of the sea being gone? The oceans are beautiful for sure but they have separated people for many centuries. Yes, today technology has brought the people of the earth back together but when the new heaven and earth come down to us there will be no more separation of continents by water. Wow! That is the only word I can think of right now is Wow!
Next is the description of the new Jerusalem coming as a bride prepared for her husband. There is nothing more beautiful than a bride on her wedding day is there? No matter what culture you are from, no matter the customs you are raised with a bride is beautiful in all places of the earth. I am part of the bride coming down from heaven and so are you if you are a Christian. Together we will all come, those who have passed away and those who were taken up from this earth, we will all come together as the bride on her wedding day to meet Jesus, our groom. What a beautiful description, this is something I am looking forward to. And to think, it all started with a baby being born a little more than two-thousand years ago who brought us the gift of grace. We will be celebrating His birthday in twenty-five days.
Do you know what else I love about this passage? That there will be no more tears shed and no more pain because our Lord will wipe each of our tears from our eyes. Oh how I look forward to that day, don’t you? No more tears from losing a loved one through death. No more tears from losing a loved one through divorce. No more pain from illnesses or injuries and no more tears from crying for the lost and the disobedient heart breaking people whom we love.
Oh, and don’t think that all people will love to see Jesus come. There have been a lot of tears shed by people throughout the centuries because of persecution or evil deeds done to them or ones they loved. Jesus has a special message for these folks so let’s read it again.
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8, (ESV).
I shudder to think of the flip side of grace which is justice and judgement. I shudder to think of this happening to people I may know. I shudder to think that Jesus will judge them but justice is coming and excuses will not be made for these folks. We must see it though and we must understand that what is written will come to pass. We can’t just pick the verses from the Bible that we like and then not discuss those verses that make us uncomfortable. We have to hear the whole truth and we must obey the whole truth to be a part of the bride coming to meet her groom.
Christmas comes every year in our culture and while our society may be moving farther away from the true meaning of Christmas it is up to us whether we move with the culture or pursue truth in our celebration. Christmas is a wonderful time to remain faithful to the truth of God’s story of grace. I hope that your Christmas season is filled with wonderful reminders of why we celebrate Christmas. I hope that your Christmas is a time of seeing family and reconnecting with old friends and that you can be a gentle reminder to them of the hope this baby born into the world has brought, the true gift of Christmas, grace. Merry Christmas everyone.
Until next time…Katherine