Advent – The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today’s the day! The wait has been excruciating. I have marked off the days as my anticipation grew to almost unbearable proportions. Like that old Heinz ketchup commercial, the anticipation will be “worth the wait.” For what am I waiting (not so patiently)? Our California kids and grands are coming to celebrate Christmas with us. We pick them up at the airport tonight. I’ll be anxiously waiting in the cell phone lot, keeping a close eye on the digital sign that announces the flights as they land.

Anticipation is what the advent season is all about—a time of eagerly waiting for the Messiah to be born. I love this season. I love the sense of anticipation. I love singing the carols, shopping for just the right gifts, making the special foods, trimming the tree, wrapping the presents, seeing the lights—all of it. I love all the Christmas concerts and live nativities and sappy Christmas movies. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, the weeks in between are my favorite time of year. For me, the anticipation reaches its crescendo, not on Christmas morning, but on Christmas Eve. The candlelight service is a beautiful time of remembering Jesus’ birth, that God sent His only Son to save His people from sin.

It’s a season of love, from exchanging gifts with those we love to seeing God’s love in giving the greatest gift of all. You might think the anticipation of Jesus coming to earth would end after all the presents are opened, the feast devoured, and the decorations put away. But this season of advent continues as we await Jesus’ second coming. Just as God promised the Messiah would come as a baby, he also promised Jesus would come again as Lord of all.

It could happen at any time. We don’t know exactly when. There’s no virgin waiting to give birth. There is no star over the place he will appear. There are no angels announcing his coming. There’s not even a digital sign to check his status every few minutes. One day, he will just appear in the clouds. Unlike his quiet, humble birth, his next coming will be with power and authority and a trumpet blast. There won’t be a smattering of shepherds and wise men who will bow before him, but every knee will bow when he comes as king of kings.

The preparations of this second advent are important and should be made with equal enthusiasm as his first—telling others of the good news of salvation, living out his Word, praying for his church and his return, and growing in love. And there are things reminiscent of the first advent season—singing songs of praise, gathering together as a family, sharing our gifts, and eagerly anticipating His coming.

So I ask myself, am I as anxious for his coming as I am for my grands coming? Does my heart flutter when I see one more sign that he will come soon, like it does when I see the sweet faces of my granddaughters sitting on a plane, ready for takeoff? Am I busy making preparations for his return? I can honestly say I am excited and eagerly anticipating Jesus’ coming. And I’m really thrilled it won’t be a short, holiday visit, but a trip that will last for eternity.

“At that time, people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send his angels and gather his elect…Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Mark 13:26-27a & Revelation 22:20b NIV)

After-Christmas Jesus

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

I missed the after-Christmas sales due to illness the last few weeks. I was hoping to pick up some small containers for next year’s batch of champagne truffles. But I missed it. I walked into Walmart yesterday, and there was no sign of Christmas. The clearance racks of wrapping paper, lights, and decorations were empty. The “seasonal” aisle was full of Valentine’s Day candy. Christmas had disappeared. Except for a few red and green storage bins, it was as if Christmas had never been there at all.

For most people who celebrated Christmas just two weeks ago, their homes are a lot like Walmart. Christmas has been put away. Since Thanksgiving, homes were decorated with colorful lights, festive wreaths, and a spotlight on white wooden cutouts of Jesus in a manger. But they’re all gone. And I wonder, as they pack baby Jesus away, if it will be the last time they will think about him until it’s time to get him out of storage next Christmas. Like the Walmart shelves, lives are devoid of the one whose coming was so joyfully and elaborately celebrated. But the celebrations are over, the Christmas music silenced, and life is back to normal. Unfortunately, “normal” for so many means life without Jesus. 

I too have packed away our manger scene, which has graced our dining room buffet for 35 Christmases. The creche was handmade by Doug and our boys in 1997. I know this because it is dated and signed by the artists. I carefully wrapped baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, a shepherd with his sheep, the donkey, and a camel with its two wise men (one wise man and an angel were casualties of our last move). But already I look forward to next Christmas when they’ll come out again. Until then, I’ll joyfully celebrate Jesus every day, not the baby in the manger, but the Son of God who came to give abundant life to those who believe. And I look forward to when Jesus comes again in the flesh, not as a baby, not unpacked and dusted off. The next time he will come as Lord of all in power and glory. It will be something to behold!

His first coming was humble and quiet. The only excitement was the angels’ announcement of his birth to some shepherds. But his second coming will be with a trumpet blast that all on earth will hear. Then things will get last-minute-Christmas-shopping crazy! Those who have looked forward to his coming will rejoice. Those who tucked him away with the tinsel will have regrets. But all will bow. What will you do with Jesus after Christmas?

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

A Magic Eraser for Life

I had a dark spot on my bathroom. It had been there for a long time. I tried every type of cleaner to remove it with no success. I’m sure the spot is from dirt being trapped in the overspray of my hairspray. I kept trying different things, but nothing took it away. Then one day I was using a Magic Eraser to get a scuff off a wall and thought, I wonder if this would work on the bathroom floor.

I marched upstairs and a few minutes later, ta-da! The spot was gone. As I returned the Magic Eraser to its box, I looked for an explanation as to how it works. Nothing. The box doesn’t say what it’s made of or what is in it. There’s no clue as to why it can erase stains that other cleaners cannot. It doesn’t look like anything special, just a white spongy thing with no odor, no suds, hmm. . . nothing but magic.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a Magic Eraser for life? How great would it be if you could magically erase all the mistakes, regrets, wrongs, hurtful words, and broken-heart moments of your life? You could start fresh, as if those things never happened. Well, we can’t. The things from our pasts happened and had an impact on who we are. But they don’t have to define us or control us, and they don’t have to be a stain that will never go away.

Salvation makes us new. Jesus’ perfect sacrifice in our place erased the stain of sin. The things we have done and have been done to us are gone. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Bible is full of these reassurances:

~The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-24)

~But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

~He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:3)

~He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. (Revelation 21:5)

I hope you have experienced new life in Christ. I am so thankful for the lessons I’ve learned from my past, but I am even more thankful that Jesus erased the sin and hurt of my past and made everything new. Like Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser on my bathroom floor, Jesus is the only answer for the stain of sin. I hope if you haven’t met Him, you will. Only He can make you new and keep you spotlessly clean.

Disclaimer: Do NOT comment on this post with the secret to the Magic Eraser – I want to keep it magical.