The Hour Has Come
by Debbie Holloway crosswalk.com
Christmas Eve is a special, ritualistic time for many families, especially ones with young children. Children have an almost tangible energy and near-breathless excitement for the festivities of the next day. Parents have all the gifts wrapped and hidden in secret closets, simply awaiting nightfall to relocate to their resting place beneath the Christmas tree. Finally, after too many Christmas treats, laying out milk and cookies for Santa, a recitation of T’was The Night Before Christmas and perhaps a reading from the book of Luke, the kids are tucked in bed.
The work has been done. No more shopping, no more wrapping, no more commanding the children to stop poking around their parents’ bedroom. Preparations have been made. And in the morning, what a glorious day Christmas day will be!
The second candle of advent is called the Bethlehem Candle, and it is known as the candle of preparation. We are still near the beginning of advent, with a few weeks to prepare our hearts for the Lord’s coming. For indeed, not only do we commemorate his first coming on December 25th, but we also know that he will come again. Will we make preparations for our Messiah, just as we make preparations for Old St. Nick?
Will we spread peace and goodwill, as the angels did on the evening of Christ’s birth? Will we offer even the lowliest parts of our lives up to God, as the farm animals made room for him amongst their beds and feeding troughs? Will we sacrifice unto him even our most precious treasures, as the Magi did after many months, perhaps even years, of travel? Will we “wake from sleep,” as Paul exhorts, and prepare for salvation?
Much preparation is needed to make our lives reflect Christ, and we may feel small and unprepared for such a task. Take comfort, then, that Bethlehem was also considered too small for God’s work. As we light the Bethlehem Candle, remember the ultimate significance of this tiny town of shepherds and stables:
“But you, Bethlehem…though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” (Micah 5:2).
Isaiah 55:7-9 7Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The cry of God is for us to come to Him. This chapter begins pleading for us to come and take the water and bread of life freely. He pleads for us to seek the LORD, and then begins to give this summary of why we need to come to God. We have gone our own way. Man has decided he does not need his Creator. God has graciously directed man in a way that is not self-destructive, but man refuses to walk in it. We are arrogant enough to think we can come up with a better and more satisfying way. That is the same problem Eve had in the Garden. Our lusting eyes and confused minds lead us into a way that is opposed to the way of God.
Our thoughts that are not yielded to the Spirit of God are the beginning of this downward spiral. God wants us to think His thoughts. A life yielded to the Spirit thinks God’s thoughts, thoughts in line with the character of God. We cannot keep a thought from passing through our mind, but we can decide not to dwell on it.
This is God’s charge against man: our ways and thoughts are not His ways and thoughts. His are pure. Ours are corrupt. His are good and just. Ours are evil and self-serving. He wants us to forsake our ways and thoughts and take in the life of the Son. We are to have the mind of Christ. Does this sound impossible? Jesus died to make it possible for the Spirit of God to live in you.
Consider: If you have received Him, simply let the Word of God live in you richly (Colossians 3:16). His life will shine through you as you walk in His ways and yield your mind to His thoughts.
She gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. — Luke 2:7 ESV
As much as we may want to, sometimes we can’t afford to pull out all the stops at Christmas.
Maybe this year has been leaner than others, or maybe something important has come up and you’re too busy to go the extra mile.
It’s easy to feel discouraged when this happens, especially when everybody else seems to be enjoying a lavish Christmas.
When God sent His Son into the world, He could have placed Him into a wealthy family in a large city. But that is not the Christmas God chose.
Christ came to humble parents in humble circumstances. And the angels announced the news to poor shepherds, not rich noblemen.
Some Christmases are more modest than others, and it can be hard to see the beauty in them.
But what if we didn’t view a humble Christmas with disappointment?
What if, like the shepherds, we came to worship Jesus with nothing but an open heart? Whatever circumstance you find yourself in this year, don’t let anything stop you from connecting with Jesus and those around you. The gift of Christ is beyond price, and it is ours! An extravagant Christmas celebration is not what matters. What counts is our humble worship of the King.
Is there something you’re disappointed or embarrassed about this Christmas?
Why do you think God chose to have His Son enter the world in humble circumstances?
How are you worshiping Jesus today?
Dilemma and deliverance
“Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” Psalm 9:10
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 23
If we could but once believe the doctrine that the child of God might fall from grace and perish everlastingly, we might, indeed, shut up our Bible in despair. To what purpose would my preaching be—the preaching of a rickety gospel like that? To what purpose your faith—a faith in a God that cannot and would not carry on to the end? To what use the blood of Christ, if it were shed in vain, and did not bring the blood-bought ones securely home? To what purpose the Spirit, if he were not omnipotent enough to overcome our wandering, to arrest our sins and make us perfect, and present us faultless before the throne of God at last? That doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is, I believe, as thoroughly bound up with the standing or falling of the gospel, as is the article of justification by faith. Give that up and I see no gospel left; I see no beauty in religion that is worthy of my acceptance, or that deserves my admiration. An unchanging God, an everlasting covenant, a sure mercy, these are the things that my soul delights in, and I know your hearts love to feed upon them. But take these away, and what have we? We have a foundation of wood, hay, straw, and stubble. We have nothing solid. We have a fort of earthworks, a mud hovel through which the thief may break and steal away our treasures. No, this foundation stands sure —“The Lord knoweth them that are his;” and he will certainly bring them all to his right hand at last in glory everlasting.
For meditation: If the truly converted man can be lost, Jesus must have meant “lend” when he said “give”, “temporary” when he said “eternal” and “perhaps” when he said “never” (John 10:28). Uncertainty is the hallmark of man-made religion.