This morning I was running late, so Mandy and the kids left without me. I jumped into the van to catch up and the battery was dead. So I walked to church. When I opened the refrigerator to grab the communion supplies, I found that we were out of grape juice. Then I learned that there were going to be 2 children here today to participate in the kids’ Christmas production.
It’s a fitting Christmas Sunday to cap off the year that we have had.
There are days, and sometimes years, in life that leave us with the question – what kind of life am I living? Is this a brilliant comedy or some kind of meaningless tragedy? Can you relate to that question?
This year began with a pandemic and now it is closing with a wave of earthquakes. I am hopeful that the coming months will give us a reprieve and a return to some kind of normal. But I don’t know. I don’t know what will come.
What I do know is that the Scriptures tell us that there is a God who reigns over time and space. A God who rules over the unfolding of history with wisdom, justice and love.
I know that the Scriptures tell us that God has revealed himself to us by making known the end from the beginning through prophets. Last week we saw that in the hundreds of prophetic messages about a coming Messiah.
I know that in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, those hundreds of prophecies became reality. Against astronomical odds, Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies.
I know that the baby born in Bethlehem grew up to be the most extraordinary person who has ever walked this earth. No one taught like he taught, no one loved like he loved.
I know that he experienced excruciating pain and sorrow in his late days, as he willingly gave up his life for the world.
I know that days after his death hundreds of his followers filled the streets of Jerusalem claiming that he was alive and soon spread throughout the world to bring the news of the Resurrected Christ to seeking souls.
And I know that Jesus left his followers with one last extraordinary promise – I’m coming again.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Revelation, chapter 22. We’re going to spend a few minutes reflecting on verse 12.
It’s fitting for us to be in Revelation this Sunday, because that’s where we are as we close out the One Year Bible readings. And it’s fitting because the earliest Christian traditions of Advent focused more on the 2nd coming of Christ than the 1st.
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.”
Behold. It’s a great word. We don’t use it much anymore, I think because we have lost the sense of weight and glory that calls for the use of the word. Behold. Come and give me your attention, come and gaze on something truly spectacular.
When we first moved to Kansas, one of the kids came running in the house, yelling “guys, you got to see this!” We ran outside to find nearly a dozen bald eagles circling over our back yard. It was pretty spectacular. That was something to gaze on and to remember.
Behold, Jesus tells us. Come and give me your attention for a moment. Gaze on this.
Listen to the old preacher Charles Spurgeon break down the word in a sermon on Revelation 1:7.
“This announcement is thought worthy of a note of admiration. As the Latins would say, there is an “Ecce” placed here — “Behold, he comes.”
As in the old books the printers put hands in the margin pointing to special passages, such is this “behold!” It is a Nota Bene calling upon us to note well what we are reading. Here is something which we are to hold and behold. We now hear a voice crying, “Come and see!”
The Holy Spirit never uses superfluous words, nor redundant notes of exclamation: when he cries, “Behold!” it is because there is a good reason for deep and lasting attention. Will you turn away when he tells you to pause and ponder, linger and look?
Oh, you who have been beholding vanity, come and behold the fact that Jesus comes. You who have been beholding this, and beholding that, and thinking of nothing worthy of your thoughts; forget these passing sights and spectacles, and for once behold a scene which has no parallel.
It is not a monarch in her jubilee, but the King of kings in his glory.
That same Jesus who went up from Olivet into heaven is coming again to earth in the same manner as his disciples saw him go up into heaven.
Come and behold this great sight. If ever there was a thing in the world worth looking at, it is this. Behold and see if there was ever glory like his glory! Listen to the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom comes!”
It has practically to do with you. “Go out to meet him.” This voice is for you, oh sons of men. Do not carelessly turn aside; for the Lord God himself demands your attention: he commands you to “Behold!” Will you be blind when God tells you to behold? Will you shut your eyes when your Saviour cries, “Behold?” When the finger of inspiration points the way, will not your eye follow where it directs you?
“Behold, he comes.” Oh my hearers, look here, I beseech you.”
I’m coming soon.
Those words have tremendous power to transform our experience of the present moment.
When a wife and mother whose husband has been overseas receives word from him, “I’m coming soon”, her present experience is filled with anticipation and longing.
When the teenagers at home alone get word from their parents, “we are coming soon”, their present experience is filled with a sense of accountability and sobriety.
When the little girl calling out for help after stumbling and scraping her knee hears her mother’s voice, “I’m coming”, she is filled with a sense of comfort and security.
Our present experience may be filled with sorrow and stress.
Jesus began a glorious work of salvation during his first coming, but his work is in progress. We’re still here in this world of woe. We still carry these decaying bodies. We still walk in the company of sinners and devils.
Jesus calls down to us, “Behold, I’m coming soon.”
For some, the words bring blessed comfort. For some, they stir a sense of eager longing. And for some, they bring a sober realization that change is needed.
What is this life? Is it comedy or tragedy? That depends on the ending doesn’t it?
That ending has been revealed. It is inevitable. In the end Christ will return to finish what he started.
For those who are in Christ, on that day sorrow and sighing will flee away and gladness and joy will overtake us. We will hear our name on his lips and we will feel his touch as he wipes every year from our eyes. He will wipe away tears of sorrow and grief. He will wipe away tears of guilt and shame. He will wipe away tears of loneliness and despair.
Whatever you experience between that day and this one, this much is certain – the glory of that day will be the defining chapter in your story.
For those who are not in Christ, that day brings a different experience. The coming of Christ to bring justice to the world is not a comfort to those who face the tip of his sword.
The good news is that Christ came the first time to provide an escape from that judgment. The good news is that Christ loves sinners and that he himself bore our sin on his shoulders to face the terrible justice of God. All who trust in Him receive forgiveness and a welcome on the day he returns.
Have you trusted Christ? Are you ready to meet Him?
I want to end with an exhortation for those of us who are believers.
What happens when a family stands outside gazing up into the sky? What is the effect on those who see them? They turn their heads to follow the gaze of the beholders.
What do the people in your life see you beholding?
There are many stories calling for our attention.
Some call us to come and gaze on the Democrats who are stealing the election from Trump.
Some call us to come and gaze on the Republican threat to the foundations of our democracy.
Some call us to gaze on the threat of the coronavirus and the hope provided by masks, quarantines and vaccinations.
Some call us to gaze on the deep state plotting to take away our freedoms and force dangerous vaccines on our children.
Some call us to gaze on the injustice of systemic racism and white power structures.
Some call us to gaze on the dangers of unbiblical ideas infiltrating the church.
These are powerful stories that capture the imagination and take our eyes off of the only hope we have in this world – the eminent return of Christ. Let’s turn our eyes to Him this Christmas. Let’s make the world stop and follow our gaze to gain a glimpse of eternal glory.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown