While going through Army basic training in Oklahoma we slept through cold nights and awoke to cold mornings. To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement. I’m from sunny south Florida and seven years in Georgia did not help to prepare me to train in sub-twenty degree temperatures. I remember waking up while it was still dark to begin the day and praying for the sun to shine so I could feel it’s desired warmth. From one morning to the next, I was strengthened to endure the merciless cold because I knew, just like the day before, that the sun was going to appear and warm us up.
In Luke 2:12 we are told that our Saviour was born in the same place where animals were fed. It reads: “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”. Although we cannot confirm the exact date of Jesus’ birth, the world over acknowledges it on December the twenty fifth, Christmas. When He was born is not as important as that He was born. He was not only born, but lived, died and was resurrected from the grave! Hallelujah!
Yet during the Christmas season, heavy emphasis is placed on His birth which causes us to look back at the manger instead of ahead for the fulfillment of His promise to return. While in Oklahoma I looked back at the morning before to be assured that the sun would repeat its cycle again. As we look back at the manager, we are assured that God fulfills His promises and will fulfill His promise of the second return of our Redeemer.
Regarding the first coming of Jesus, prophets were inspired to share details of its description. The prophet Micah wrote that He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah in Micah 5:2. In Isaiah 7:14 the prophet wrote that He would be born of a virgin. Jeremiah 23:5 tells us that He was to be born of the lineage of David. And there are so many more prophesies of His first coming scattered throughout the Old Testament. Note that the exact time was not given, only the description. In Matthew 24:32-34 our Saviour explained in a parable of a fig tree that although we do not know the time, we can tell the season.
When I first became a Christian I prayed that the Lord would delay His second coming long enough for me to scratch off the shortsighted and selfish desires I had on my check list. I wanted to experience ‘life’ and envisioned His return as an interruption to my hopes and dreams. I remember when the realisation that, in a fallen world, the more time we are here is the more pain that is experienced due to sin. As I considered the second coming from the angle of suffering being ended and the creation being restored I started desiring its fulfillment more and more.
The fact that Jesus came the first time should assure us that He will be coming again. The fulfillment of the prophets in the Old Testament regarding His birth helps us to trust that the prophecies in the New Testament about His second coming will come to pass. In John 14:3 it reads: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I believe that Jesus delayed return has more to do with Him preparing us to live in those eternal mansions than it has to do with Him preparing the mansions. In Acts 1:9-11 the apostles were approached by an angel who said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Again, the attention of His followers were called to look forward to His second coming. 1st Thessalonians 4:16 goes a little further by stating: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Here we are told those who died trusting in Jesus would be raised from the dead to live on. In the following verse (17) the writer then says: “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Matthew 24:31 tells us that He will be returning with an entourage of angels and Revelation 22:12 says He will have rewards with Him for His saints. During the Christmas season, as we look back at the manger and are reminded of Jesus’ birth let’s be assured of His promise to return and look forward His advent!