Twenty-one more days ’till Christmas! It’s hard to believe. I mean the stores have only been having Christmas sales for a month now! It seems like Christmas comes faster and faster every year. Maybe it’s because I am getting old.
I remember when I was young it seemed that Christmas took forever. I have heard my children express the same feeling. They say, “I can’t wait for Christmas.” And I remember feeling the same way. I can remember, as a child, thinking that Christmas would never come and being told by my parents to be patient.
I remember I used to ask my parents how much longer to Christmas—even before I had a concept of weeks or months. And to me to be told two weeks or even five days was beyond my comprehension. It would seem that Christmas was never coming.
That is the kind of thing that Peter was addressing in our reading today. The early Christians couldn’t wait for Christ to come again. They knew that when he came there would be an end to the evil in this world. They knew that he would come and bring an end to the suffering and the persecution that they were going through. They knew that when Jesus comes again he will bring true and eternal peace on earth. But it seemed to be taking forever. So Peter told them “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
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You know we Christians have been waiting for Jesus’ return for 2,000 years. It sometimes seems like it never will happen. But the promise to us from God is that he will come to bring an end to this awful world. “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) The only reason Jesus has not come already is to give more people a chance to believe and be saved.
Christmas is a sign and a proof that the promise of Jesus’ return will be fulfilled. He came once and just as he came once he will come again! God promised to send the world a Savior and God sent us His only begotten Son. God had not given up on the human race then, and has not given up on us yet. If God kept his promise then, He will keep His promise now!
Peter goes on to say, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10) Christmas is not just a reminder that God keeps his promises, it is also an object lesson in why Jesus needs to come again. The materialism of the way our society celebrates this holiday show us that people have their priorities all wrong. Gold and silver trinkets and electronic gadgets will not last. The things that are eternal and matter are things like faith, hope, love, joy, peace, and the like.
When Jesus comes again the things of this world will melt away. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! (2 Peter 3:11-12) The material things that many in our world value are ultimately not what is important. So as people who are patiently waiting for that day we should value the things that are eternal. We should live our lives as those who know this earth and things in it will dissolve while faith, hope, love, peace, and so on will continue.
We should celebrate Christmas in that same way. I am not saying you shouldn’t buy gifts to give to you friends and loved ones. But we need to realize that those gifts are not what is important. The things we give, even diamonds, are not forever, but the love behind them is. We should search our souls with every swipe of the credit card and remember it is all about love.
It is like this. One morning the children woke up and the parents were taking the Christmas decorations out of storage. They clamored, “Mommy, Daddy, when is Christmas coming?” The parents said “O soon my dears.” But hours and days passed and it didn’t come. One of the children decided that the parents were lying and so he gave up on Christmas all together. Another of the children decided to spend the time waiting in making lists of the things that she would get. She woke every morning looking for the gifts under the tree and for treats in the stocking. She was disappointed day after day.
But the youngest decided if Christmas didn’t come he would act like it had anyway. And while his sister made lists and his brother sneered at every decoration and refused to sing Christmas songs, the little brother tried to give little gifts to his family. They were not grand gifts like the ones you find under the tree on Christmas day but they were gifts none the less. He gave his mother and his father a bear hug each morning. He gave his brother a construction paper plane. He played dress up with his sister which he didn’t enjoy but she did. And he gave the lady next door a hand made Christmas card.
The end result was that the brother’s cynicism was melted and the sister stopped making lists of the things she wanted and started listing the things she could give. By the time Christmas came, the children had forgotten all about having to wait for it because they made each day like a little Christmas.
Jesus is coming again my children. He came one time as baby in Bethlehem. And he promised that he would come back – this time in clouds of Glory. When he does return he will finish the job started in our hearts. He will set all creation right and bring outward as well as inward peace to all. And we wait patiently for Christ. But in the mean time let us seek to give little signs of the greater things that God will send. Let us give others gifts that are a foretaste of the great gift of the Kingdom that is coming!
Copyright 2008, Alex Stevenson. Used by permission.