Joy to the world, the Lord is coming!
“That Day” finds Satan missing, hospitals closed, prisons empty, the news hour void of tragic stories . . . but the redeemed will be showered with glory, bright shining like the sun. Our Advent, our anticipation of great joy, is in the future – not Bethlehem but the New Jerusalem, heaven and earth united. Christmas is about the past but it’s also about the future; about time, but also eternity. Joy to the world, the Lord is coming!
When Jesus was asked about his timing on the great cosmic calendar, he spoke the parable of the Ten Virgins. His message: be in waiting! “Christ will appear a second time to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28). This waiting is not passive. While on earth lay up treasures in heaven! The resurrected life starts here. Time flows into eternity. How you live in time shapes your eternity. Yet it is so difficult. Do we itch for heaven? Are we on tiptoe for the Second Coming? In honesty, we prefer that Jesus wait a few years. We don’t want the party to end. As Neal Plantinga writes, “‘Thy kingdom come,’ we pray, ‘but not right away.’”
During our courtship Jayne had a hope chest. Each pay cheque brought a few dishes, a table cloth and so on. When son Michael and his wife Marilyn received their first child, Michael saw a future basketball star. To help, Michael would place a grape in that tiny hand, then patiently, one at a time, close those baby fingers around the grape and urge, “Andrew, hold on!” Jayne and Michael waited actively. Is your waiting active? Can you visualize the day when “the curse will be no more”? Nastiness, jealousy, arrogance, hypocrisy, pride, insecurity, cruelty all gone. “There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 22:3-4). All human pain redeemed. Not just wiped away but redeemed. Is that in your mind’s eye, this Christmas?
Resurrected life has begun
There is more. On that day we shall meet God, see him face to face, breathe in his presence. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (Rev. 21). The Bible speaks of pearls, palms, crowns, white robes, streets of gold, thrones, splendour like the sun – all metaphors for glory. C.S. Lewis thinks of this glory as honour and fame, not from fellow creatures but from God. This glory – God taking delight in you – seems impossible. And yet that audacious, preposterous confession is mere Christianity. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25). Approval from God is a “weight of glory,” says Lewis – not because it is burdensome but because of its significance, its gravitas. The redeemed will be known by him (1 Cor. 8:3) and receive a new name on a white stone (Rev. 2:17). Is that in your mind’s eye, this Christmas?
Yes, and yet it all seems so remote, like a dream. When weary of waiting, remember what time it is. We live between the first and the second coming. Because of the First Coming we are citizens of the Kingdom. It is not only future. Jesus’ birth means God is with us. Jesus’ death means Satan’s clock is ticking. Jesus’ resurrection means that your death is a door, not a hole. Christmas means the resurrected life has begun. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Cor. 3:16). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:16-17). “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1Pet.2:9). All in present tense.
The redeemed of the Lord
Some time ago, Alice Laarman, teacher and missionary, died. As the cancer closed-in to end her life, Alice dressed more and more often in purple. Anyone who asked, and many who did not, were told, “I am a daughter of the King and I am going home!”
We are citizens of the Kingdom. If the blessed are to be showered with glory, then your neighbour, your spouse, your children, your employer, your fellow worker and the person beside you in the pew are all potentially the redeemed of the Lord. You are surrounded by recipients of the glory of God. Treating others as the redeemed, as new creatures, is to wait actively; it is to participate in the Second Coming, to lay up treasures that last. Time and eternity shape each other. Treating others as recipients of God’s glory intensifies your awareness of the resurrected life, today. Christmas is about the present and future as much as the past. It embraces God’s staggering, infinite glory emblazoned on the redeemed. That vision makes Christmas potent, robust, joyful, a weight of glory!
Joy to the world, for the Lord is coming! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come quickly!