What do you long for? Do you yearn for and anticipate better things in your life? Do you enjoy getting gifts? This week, Todd taught us about longings, anticipation, and gifts as we reflect on and prepare for Christmas.
About Todd Wagner
In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more
I think sometimes we can beat ourselves up pretty good around this time of year, that we get sucked up into the materialism of Christmas. Now let me just say this. There is no question that our world that doesn't carry with it a strong Christian worldview has made the Christmas season something it was never meant to be. For many, many years, for centuries, until maybe Madison Avenue got ahold of Christmas and figured out, "Hey, this is a good way to up end-of-year profits," this was what was called the Advent season.
Now we don't really have the Advent season. Even a lot of communities of faith don't celebrate Advent. We kind of go, "I don't even know what _Advent_ means. It's Latin. Who speaks Latin?" _Advent_ means to come or the coming, and it's called that because something is coming. Every single year around this time of year, appropriately, people who know the greatest gift the world could ever receive has come, and we've picked a date on the calendar that probably isn't even the date on the calendar… Christmas probably happened more around March or April.
Christians historically grabbed what used to be a pagan holiday and redeemed it by making it a time when we remember the greatest gift that could ever come. This time of year is when the church chooses to remember the gift, and that's fine. I don't think God makes a big deal that we miss his birthday, but he _does_ care if we miss his birth. What I would encourage you with is to make sure that whatever you're doing this season, that those of you who know who Jesus is don't get locked down in the Christmas season.
What's the Christmas season? The Christmas season is a lot like what weddings have become. Weddings are a beating, if you haven't noticed. It is like, "Okay, we can't really get married unless I have the perfect dress." You don't need the perfect dress to get married; you need a godly spouse. "Oh, we have to remember our wedding. We have to pay all kinds of money for this leather-bound picture thing that we'll never look at except maybe twice and once when we're almost dying."
It's like, "We have to get the right photographer. Oh, there have to be flowers. We have to get the right flowers that are overpriced and won't last 24 hours that we make people take when the reception is over." No, you really don't need flowers. There's a lot of stress at weddings. A ton of them. What we do a lot of times with wedding ceremonies is put ourselves in debt and wear ourselves out with stress, like, "Is it going to look just like I imagined it should look?"
We culturally put so much emphasis on the wedding, which makes sense if we're not people who understand there's something more than our fleeting culture, whereas God wants us to focus on the marriage. Christmas is a little bit like that. The Christmas season… I don't know about you, but have you been invited to a party? Yes. There are a lot of times you get together, and you have to make sure… My wife and I were actually going to a little gathering we had here Friday night with the staff team.
We do some stuff to celebrate the staff, and my wife was calling me up there. She was like, "I do not like doing this alone." Buying some gifts we needed to give. We love the giving of the gifts even to our family, but sometimes it's a beating. You're there, and it's just like, "This is crazy." Everybody is fighting over the same sizes and the same things every year, and when Christmas gets here we don't celebrate. We kind of go, "Phew!" Right?
By the time Christmas gets here, the tree is dead, half the lights in your house are burnt out, and you're whipped. Christmas is celebration. Advent is longing. Now I want to just balance some things. Sometimes we think if we're really spiritual we wouldn't get any at all into the gift giving. I'm telling you that's wrong. Let me just encourage you with a couple of truths this morning, and I'm going to give you some illustration.
First of all, longing for something isn't sin. Do you guys know that? Longing, the idea that I want something more, that there's something I'm missing… It's not sinful to have that sense that the world is not as it should be. It is very right to long for more. That's what Advent is. "There has to be something coming that's going to give me what I don't have." If you don't long for something, you're not very observant or you're being satisfied with the wrong things.
Longing isn't sin, but longing for something that can't provide you that which ultimately satisfies and trying to find life in something that isn't life-giving is sin. That's the original sin: when we say, "Hey, God, you're not enough for me. My heart desires something more than you. I want this other thing to be for me what only you can be." God isn't petty in that he doesn't offer you life in something other than him. He _can't_ create something that is to replace him, because only God is good. Only God is satisfying. Only God is the author of life.
Sin is longing for more from things that can't provide them. It was one of the big Ten that God offered us. Exodus, chapter 20, when he's going through the Ten Commandments… You're going to find right away that Jesus says simply, "I'm the Lord your God. I'm the one who brought you out of the land of Egypt, who brought you out of slavery, and you should have no other god before me. You shouldn't make for yourself an idol or any likeness, because there _is_ nothing like me. Be satisfied in me."
Now God never said, "Don't enjoy things on earth." I think sometimes we can swing this pendulum to where we go, "If we were really spiritual we wouldn't want anything on earth." No. God is the giver of good gifts. Everything is good that comes from God. In fact, he said everything, when it's sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, receive with a heart of gratitude. Everything in creation is good.
I did a Real Truth. Real Quick. on alcohol and whether or not Christians should or can drink alcohol. In that little Real Truth. Real Quick. I talk about cocaine and heroin. "Are they good, Todd?" I talk about the fact that, well, yes. When they're sanctified by the Word of God and prayer and by learning and by medical doctors… Maybe you don't know that morphine comes from the same derivative of the opium plant that heroin does. You may or may not know that lidocaine comes from the same synthetic that cocaine comes from.
It's what you use it for and how you use it. When someone numbs your gums so they can fill a cavity, numbs the root, you're like, "That's a blessing." When you use cocaine or heroin to numb your life from the reality that this world is not all that it should be or because you're experiencing pain because you've tried to find life apart from God and you don't want to deal with the reality of the emptiness of sin, then it's not sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. Does that make sense?
It's appropriate that we give each other gifts. This is the way it used to go. By the way, have you guys ever heard that song "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? That's the one that whenever you're listening to a radio station and it comes on you turn the channel. _That_ song. That's what I'm talking about. Like, "When will this end?" The only reason you want to know that song is so you can answer some trivia questions someday.
"What were the eight?" "I have no idea. I don't care about the lords a-leaping or banging drums or whatever they're doing." Here's the thing. The 12 days of Christmas used to be the beginning of celebration. Advent is a season of longing. It's not sin to long. Sin is what has created the longing for the world as it should be. Christmas is celebration. The 12 days of Christmas are what used to happen after a time of great remembrance of how cold and dark the world was.
On Christmas morning the gift giving would begin, and for 12 days we would take gifts to one another. That's when the lights would go on. That's when the trees would go up, in effect. That's when the celebration would start. Everything up until then was not a rushing around and getting tired; it was realizing that the world we live in is tired. The world we live in is not as it should be.
Listen to this Scripture. This is Isaiah. You guys know Isaiah because you get Christmas cards. Isaiah 9:1 says, "There's going to be a day when there will be no more gloom for her who is in anguish." Right now, we, in our secularized world, are trying to convince you that the Christmas season, right now is the time of joy and caroling. No. Really, what should be going on right now is a time of anticipation, that we're remembering.
In the same way that Lent… Have you guys ever heard, "Do I give up anything for Lent?" What's Lent? We talked about that in a Real Truth. Real Quick. Lent is a season of anticipation where I deny myself something, not so God will love me more but so I can remember that Christ, though he was rich, for my sake became poor and the seriousness of the sacrifice God had made, that I would meditate on it.
In a sense, it's a form of fasting, that I would deny myself to focus on spiritual things, that I would use my longing for that thing to go, "Lord, even more than wanting meat on Fridays," if you're a good Catholic, "I long for intimacy with you, and I know that you, even though you exist in the form of God, denied yourself and became a man so that I could be reconciled to you, because you were a sacrifice in my place."
I'm preparing myself for the wonder of the Easter season. That's what the Lenten season is, and it's what the Advent season is for Christmas. Why? There is gloom and there is anguish, like there was in Zebulun and Naphtali, which are just regions in Israel. Verse 2: **"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them."** Wouldn't that be awesome? Can you imagine if you did this? In some ways, this would be a great Advent: don't use any electricity during the Advent season.
I'm not recommending that really, because I don't want to live under that legalistic idea, but imagine if I go, "Hey, for the 25 days preceding Christmas, we're going to have no electricity." Would it fire you up if at midnight, when you're driving home from your Christmas Eve service, there were Christmas lights all the way home and you knew you could go home and make your coffee on the automatic coffee maker and not over a fire every morning?
Think about the celebration we would have. Think about the reminder that would give us, that God has done something really special. It says right here this is what's going to happen. There's going to be a day when God will multiply joy in the nation (verse 3). He's going to increase their gladness. They will be glad in the presence God brings, as with the gladness of harvest; that what was planted, the seed of hope and promise began to bloom and take forth, and now it provides for you that which will give you life. That's what harvest is.
**"…as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For** [God] **shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian."** In other words, "God has delivered us before." There was a hope that was coming that God was going to deliver us again. Advent, the prophetic longing that God would do this one day, is in your Old Testament.
Then it says in verse 5, **"For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire."** Because the war will be over. God will accomplish the peace we can never get ourselves. Then we have this amazing verse, verse 6. "For there's going to be a child…" What? A child in a time of hopelessness and despair? Yes, because even the child…
First there's conception. You have to wait for him to come. Then through labor pains the child comes. Then there's a season when that child grows into the fullness of what it should be, to be the Great Deliverer, because Christmas is only great because of Easter. God is showing you, "Here it comes." **"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and** [eventually] **the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God…"**
The baby is God. Can you imagine the wonder of that? You're in the darkness that the shepherds were in, and then a great light came and angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth, good will to men, for God is pleased with men to dwell. He has come. This Isaiah 9 baby has been born to you. What you have been longing for in darkness without electricity has come." He will be the Prince of Peace. This is the Eternal Father coming to rescue you.
**"There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…"** Let me ask you a question. Do you see the government, the kingdom of God, increasing in our world today or do you see it decreasing? Do you see the morality of the way of God increasing or decreasing? Jesus came, Christmas came, and yet here we are. We seem to be having more darkness encroach on our land and not more light. I don't see an increase in peace. I hear about wars and rumors of wars.
In fact, Jesus, which is really weird… The child, when he became a man, right before he died, he told his disciples, "Hey, this isn't going to be what you thought it was going to be completely. I'm here, and I know you're glad, but I'm leaving, and there are going to be increased wars, and there are going to be rumors of wars, and it's going to get worse before it gets better." "But I thought you were the child who would come and there would be no end to the increase of your government."
Jesus said, "Oh, that's true, but I'm doing something here you can't even imagine yet. My work is not done. I'm going to go to the Father, and you should be glad that I'm going to go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And I'm going to give you the Spirit so you can begin to declare what I have done, because I'm not going to roll this thing up, because there are a lot of people, a lot of nations that don't know about who I am and what I've done.
If you think Egypt was a great oppressor to your forefathers, if you think Rome is a great oppressor to your forefathers now, there's something that's oppressing every nation, not just you Jews, and it's sin, it's darkness and despair, and it's a lack of knowing where longings can be met and forgiveness can be found."
It's not wrong to give gifts. Giving gifts that bring us a certain level of joy is part of what I think God wants us to do. I get my kids every year, and we sit down and hang out. In fact, here's a picture. I think my youngest son was 4 at the time, so this is 2007 or 2008. We got a picture every year of them. This is the only one I could get real clearance on where no one is in their terrible awkward years. They're on the steps getting ready.
Every Christmas we'd stack them there, then they'd run and turn the corner. There is the tree, and there are some gifts for each one of them. It's awesome. There are stockings, and they dump them out and they talk, and then we take turns sharing about the different gifts we've gotten. Every year, especially when they were younger, there was something they thought they were going to get that was going to be great. That's what Christmas is.
Something is coming that you think is going to be great, and here's the deal. It's _going_ to be great, but what's really weird is this. You have to follow me on this one, because this is an application that's going to be kind of weird. Advent is a time when we predict that Christmas is coming, but we live in a time when Christmas has come. We live in a time where Christmas _has_ come and Christmas _will_ come.
What am I talking about? Here's what I'm talking about. Christmas is coming, and it's appropriate that we give our kids gifts, but none of those gifts do we ever think are going to really satisfy them. This week I sent out a little email to all of my friends and just said, "Hey, have you ever gotten a gift that you just thought, 'If I get this gift, it's going to be the only gift I ever need. Right then I'm going to be happy forever'?" There were all kinds of them.
JP talks about how he was flipping through the Sears catalog and got to the White Lightning remote-controlled car, and he was certain if he got that White Lightning remote-controlled car he would never get out of his chair again. When he was hanging out there and his mom said, "JP, it's time for lunch," he'd just drive his car into the kitchen. "Hey, put the ham sandwich on the car. I'll drive White Lightning right back in here. Want me to run an errand? My remote-controlled car will do that."
Well, of course, the remote-controlled car can't do that, but when you're a kid you think, "Man, if I can get that White Lightning I'm going to be happy." I think about my buddy Kyle Kaigler up in Plano. We're children of the 60s, so in the 70s we were playing youth baseball, and all of a sudden we went from wood bats to aluminum bats, and we just knew if we'd get an aluminum bat we'd bat 800. "Hank Aaron, move out of the way. We're going to set some serious records."
Kaigler said, "Wagner, I hit one ball over the fence my entire baseball career. The aluminum bat didn't do it." Well, he also was one of those guys on the mound, that six-five lefty making sure nobody else hit a ball over the fence, but he was just certain if he could get that bat it was going to be Christmas. I think about my buddy Jonathan who works here on the arts team. He loved playing a game called Need for Speed.
His favorite car to use in that game was a Mazda RX-8, and he always thought that would be the ultimate gift. When he was 18, around Christmas, his dad gets him a yellow Mazda RX-8. Then he gives himself the gift of two tickets inside two weeks and blows the engine out, and he misses the flatbed truck he used to have, and he sells this sucker in a little bit of time, and it's gone. The gift that he thought if he just had it he'd be happy… It was a good gift, but it just didn't do it all.
I love my buddy Ryan over here. He was talking about how he wanted the Atari 2600. Do you remember these bad boys? That was everything a kid needed, but he said it overheated easily, he had to blow dust out of the cartridges, and eventually it was replaced by the Nintendo which he had to have, and he had to blow dust out of _those_ cartridges and _it_ overheated easily. He said, "Todd, I'm sitting here next to Kris. I'll ask her."
He said, "Kris, did you ever get a gift you thought was going to make you happy forever and it didn't?" She goes, "Yes." He goes, "What?" She goes, "A husband." That's a great answer, isn't it? Because this is marriage. Single friends, listen to me. I think married people are infinitely better off than you. I really do, because while single people still think that if they just get married they'll be happy forever, married people know better.
So they're better than you, but marriage is a gift. It really is a gift, but it's not the gift that's going to make you go, "I never need another gift." God wants us to be loving and share intimacy and all kinds of pleasure attached to it that comes in the context of marriage when used correctly, but if any of us think… This is the reason there's so much trouble in marriage. "I married you so that we would live happily ever after. I didn't marry you so I'd have to learn how selfish I am and seek Jesus more so we could have a relationship that works."
That's really the purpose of marriage. It _does_ make you happy, but it makes you holy. Martin Luther used to say, "I've learned more about God in marriage than I ever did in the monastery, because it taught me about sin and what it really means to love and who can change my wicked heart and make me a lover."
My buddy Alex up there running the slides today was a soccer player. He wanted the great Adidas Predator real kangaroo leather shoes. He thought that would be the key to soccer scholarships. A little bit later he goes, "Well, maybe speed isn't my deal; it's strength," so he asked for strength shoes. Remember _these_ bad boys? He said, "That's all I want for Christmas." He said, "It didn't make me a better athlete; it made me taller and clumsier."
I could go on and on with different gifts. My favorite one is my buddy Collin. He said, "Todd, I was just one of those kids who loved the Pokémon craze. I'm secure enough to tell you that." He said, "Around 2000 I was really into it, and I told my parents, 'I don't want anything for Christmas, but I want to keep buying packs of Pokémon cards until I get Charizard.'" I'm like, "That means nothing to me." He goes, "Of course it doesn't, because you weren't a geek."
Charizard apparently was this really rare card that if you got it when you were playing Pokémon it would help you do whatever you do when you play Pokémon. He said his parents bought pack after pack after pack. It was like _Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory_. "Give me the chocolate. I want to see if there's a golden ticket in there." He had a buddy who had no idea what Pokémon was. He goes, "Man, you've got to get started."
He bought him one pack, and there was a Charizard in it. He said, "I was so bitter, because he didn't care and he didn't know how precious it was, and he wouldn't trade me because he knew it was apparently a really big deal." He said, "A year later I sold all of my cards at a lemonade stand for $2." Here's what's crazy. Eventually he got a Charizard card, and he said it was just in the lemonade stand.
Here's what's really funny. We jumped online this week because I was going to get him another one just to encourage him. That Charizard card… Check it out on eBay. It's worth $25,000 today. Seventeen years later, 25 grand. Are you kidding me? Now here's what's crazy. Someone is like, "I want a Charizard card for Christmas. That's all I want." But if you had 25 grand, just know this. It's going to be gone, and it's not going to be enough.
Listen to me. Longing isn't sin, and you ought to give gifts as a reminder. You ought to say, "Look, there's something happening here. It's an already but not yet. This gift I'm going to give you… Be encouraged by it, but don't seek to find life in it." If we buy ourselves everything we want every time we want it there's no big deal about Christmas, but when you wait for something and there's anticipation and you think you might get it and you get it, there's a moment of joy.
Isn't Christmas now like that? Let's just go back to what the prophets had anticipated and what the prophets longed for. I'm not going to walk you through the entire Old Testament, but there were a lot of times of deliverance in the Old Testament. Do you remember that? Even after Adam and Eve had a stay of execution, we move forward, and then the whole world gets increasingly more sinful.
You have Noah coming along. God says, "I'm going to deal with sin on the earth. If anybody trusts in the one whose name means rest and you move toward the instrument of wood, if you put your faith in my prophet and get on the instrument of wood, you will escape the flood of judgment that is to come." But Noah wasn't Jesus and the deliverance on the ark was not Christmas. You can go on.
Then there's darkness in the nations that come from Noah's lineage, and you have Abraham. Abraham is chosen by God to be the one who will ultimately have a relationship with him, and all of the nations of the earth will be blessed through him, as they walk as Abraham walked. There comes a moment when God told Abraham to sacrifice the child of promise, this hopeless situation where God said, "Abraham, do you love me? Then give me Isaac."
Isaac carried wood on his own shoulders up a hill later known as Golgotha. He carries the wood up the hill and builds something that he will die on, and then God substitutes a ram for Isaac, but the ram wasn't Jesus and the deliverance of Isaac was not Christmas. Darkness came again. Isaac had a son. His name was Jacob. Jacob's name was changed to Israel. "I am with you, Jacob. I will strive for you. You don't need to earn your way to me."
Then Jacob had 12 sons. He had a chosen blessed son, and that blessed son, if you will, was one who was sold for just a few pieces of silver, left for dead, forgotten, rejected by the family, who God in his kindness elevated to a position of great power, where when the family was in need they would come, and instead of receiving judgment, what they intended for evil by ridding themselves of this brother God used for good, and they found forgiveness where they should find death.
Does that story sound familiar? It's the story of Joseph, but Joseph wasn't Jesus and the deliverance from Pharaoh and famine was not Christmas. A little bit later there was a shepherd, Moses, a good shepherd, who comes to deliver the people from oppression, but Moses wasn't Jesus and the exodus wasn't Christmas.
There is Jeshua, Joshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus, the Lord saves), who took the people where law couldn't take them, and by grace he brought them into the place of promise and defeated the enemy and drove out those who were greater in number and strength than them. God did for them what they couldn't do for themselves, but Joshua wasn't Jesus and moving into the Promised Land physically wasn't Christmas. I could go on. Do you see what's happening?
In the midst of all of these things, there is a longing, because as darkness comes to the land there are prophets who are saying, "God is going to one day bring you to a place where you really can know him again and your sins are forgiven and you won't need anybody to teach you, because God will put his Spirit in all men, and there will be peace on earth, and there won't be nations at war with each other. The government will sit on the shoulders of the Righteous One."
We waited and we waited, and then there were 400 years where there was no miraculous intervention of God to his people. There was great darkness. Then into the darkness there came a great light, and the angelic host sang, "This is the one." The lights came on, and then it was Christmas. But isn't it weird that here we are 2,000 years on the back side of Christmas and we don't feel unending peace?
Is it wrong that we long for something more? No. Because what the people didn't understand that the prophets were saying is that when this King comes there _will_ be no end to the increase of his government and there _will_ be no end to the peace he establishes, man with God and eventually on earth, but there's going to be this parentheses of work where God is going to do something that's going to, in effect, separate the Christmases.
Jesus, Luke 4, talking to his friends in Nazareth… On the Sabbath day he stands up, as any rabbi would do, and says, "Give me the scrolls of the prophet Isaiah." He went to Isaiah 61, and he reads this. He says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." This is a prophetic verse for the Messiah. Jesus reads this. Many rabbis had read it, but watch what Jesus says.
**"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed…"** We're like, "Oh yeah, _that's_ Christmas. What a gift _that_ would be." He says in verse 19, **"…to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."**
Then it says, **"And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down…"** Everybody was looking at him, because rabbis wouldn't just read the text; they would usually tell what the text means. So he said, "You guys want to hear what this text means?" and he began to say to them, **"Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."** Now that, folks, is mic drop. That's, like, blow my mind. "What are you saying?"
He's saying, "I really am that child Isaiah talked about, and I am the King who will come to deliver you that Isaiah talked about in chapter 61." Here's what's really crazy. Anybody who sat in that synagogue before had heard that text read before. They had never heard anybody say, "Today it's going to be fulfilled," and they never heard anyone stop where Jesus did. Let me take you back to Isaiah 61 and read it from _that_ text.
**"The Spirit of the Lord** **God** **is upon me, because the** **Lord** **has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners…"** We've heard this. Right? **"…to proclaim the favorable year of the** **Lord** **and the day of vengeance of our God** [where I eradicate all evil] **…"**
Folks, here's what I want to tell you. There is hidden in the Scriptures two Christmases that no one really saw coming, so it's really a strange place we're at. We are people who are singing on this side of the coming of the Christ child, and we believe God does fulfill his promises. God does what he says he's going to do. Everything he said he was going to do in Isaiah 61 God has done.
There is favor. He has delivered us from judgment. He has brought us free as captives from sin. He has given us freedom from being a slave to our flesh. He has bound up the brokenhearted. We're no longer separated from God; we've been reconciled, but it is not yet a time when the vengeance of God has been poured out on all that is evil.
There's a season that Jesus says, "I want you to go tell people that the child really did come. The child really provided them something they need, which is more than deliverance from Egypt, more than deliverance from Rome. It's deliverance from sin that keeps them from their God and their King. You mark my word: I am coming again, and when I come again it will not be as a lamb but as a lion, and it will be joy to the world."
If you go all the way back to Genesis 3, there is a moment in the Scripture where after Adam is receiving the rebuke it says, "Adam, because of you, this creation you're steward over… The land is now going to be cursed." Then in verse 18 of chapter 3 it says, "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you." Those mesquite thorns? That was not in Eden. They started to come because the land we're in is cursed.
This world is not as it should be. There's a longing for something more. By the way, have you guys noticed yet? Have you been out in a field lately? There are still thorns and thistles. Have you noticed that there is still a lack of peace? Have you noticed that there's still cancer and death and insecurity? Have you noticed that we don't always make our marriages a thing of blessing because we don't bring enough Christmas into it?
Let me just encourage you with this. It's okay that you long for a different family experience. It's okay that you long for a different physical body. It's okay that you long for a better marriage. Do you guys know we're going to have a better church one day? This is not church as God intended it. This is the best we can do, as we all confess our sin, clothe ourselves in humility, ask for grace, and extend grace.
Your community is not perfect. Your marriage, which should have been a time of great celebration, shouldn't have been something like, "Now I'm married, I'll never want again." Of course you're going to want again. We're not home yet. It's still two sinners who maybe know (hopefully, prayerfully, if it's going to work at all) they need a Savior and who try and be a means of grace to the other person, but I don't know about you.
Sometimes even with all my learning and all my knowing and all my certainty of what Christ has done and who he is I sometimes quench the Spirit and don't live in the spirit of Christmas with my wife. There's going to be a day when all of my relationships are not marred by sin. I long for that day, and I know why I'm going to get to enjoy it, because I have peace with God.
One of the things we have to do is not get lost. This is still an Advent season. This world is not our home. Don't be surprised at the momentary afflictions among us. Wonder at what God has done and the mercy that's made available, but don't wonder why there's still trouble. Jesus said, "You're going to still have trouble."
During this Advent season, don't think you're living just in Christmas. Anticipate when it comes. Whereas in the Old Testament they longed for the child to come and do what he was going to do, we are looking back that God is not going to forget his promises, and we remember that his promises are not done.
There was a young man who decided to write a song about Christmas. It's one we sing every year about Christmas, but do you know what? When he wrote the song about Christmas he wasn't writing about the one in a manger; he was talking about the one when the man comes and there is no end to the increase of his government and there's peace on earth and he is a king, and when he comes there will be nothing but joy to the world, and creation will have no more thorns and thistles grow. Do you know what the song is? "Joy to the World." It's about the second Christmas.
Hey, we aren't home yet. Give gifts to one another. Be a gift in your marriage, be a gift in your community, be a gift in this church, but don't be surprised that we all long for something more. If we have more of the forgiveness and the dwelling of the Spirit that should come because we really believe in the first Christmas, this is going to be a better and better church every day, but there's not going to be a day when it's a perfect church, a perfect marriage, a perfect friendship, a perfect body until God finishes his kingdom program.
Until that time, you sing like a prophet. Folks, Christmas is coming, Christmas has come, and Christmas will come. You long for it. You live like you believe it. You sing like you know it is true that it happened and you believe it will happen still. Don't miss Advent.
Father, I pray that we would long for Christmas. I pray we'd live in light of the very first Christmas, but I pray that we would long for Christmas indeed. I pray that we would be a testament. Just like the ram that delivered Isaac was a testament of your faithfulness, I pray _we'd_ be a testament of your faithfulness. Just like Noah was a testament of your faithfulness, I pray _we_ would be a testament of your coming rest and faithfulness.
Just like, Lord, every single person in the Old Testament who prefigured your coming, I pray _we_ would prefigure your coming, that our lives would be excellent, that our community and our church and our families would be different because Jesus has invaded them, but, Lord, we know we're not home yet, so we have to decrease that he might increase.
Help us to be a means of joy to the world. May the long expected Jesus come in us until he comes again for all to see. May we wonder at the mercy that is here. May we live in light of the cross until the crown comes and reigns. We long for that day. Let us be faithful in the advent. Amen.