Dec 7, 2020
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
The second week of Advent began in the most interesting times I’ve experienced. Of course, we all deal with the effects of the coronavirus here in the United States and abroad. The disease is wreaking havoc everywhere. Our healthcare workers truly exhibit heroic efforts in combating the progress, but they are exhausted and seem to take two steps back with every step forward sometimes. The virus is just a horrible enemy for the world at large.
I thought we would have a more focused Thanksgiving this year with many stores closed because of the virus. More people staying at home and enjoying a more intimate setting with their immediate family. But I was wrong. Store closed, but we experienced record shopping - $4.5 billion in online sales on Thanksgiving Day. Covid-19 did nothing to curb our appetite for materialism.
And although airports seemed a little emptier this year, I’m not so sure the roads were less crowded than I’ve seen them in years past. So, I think a lot of people headed for family gatherings away somewhere just to get away for a few days. We will find out in the next few days what that means for the multiplied spread of the virus. And please don’t blame the government for our failures to protect each other.
Here we are in a time of anticipation, but of what? More political upheaval? A miracle vaccine to stop the spread of the virus? An instant end to our economic woes? Christmas?
In our house, we definitely prepare for Christmas. To get in the mood, Carole starts watching Christmas movies in July. Decorations take a while. We might stop with the eight trees already up (I hope). Maybe there will be one or two more, but at least they won’t be the six-foot variety. Nativity scenes take prominent places in almost every room. Lights and garland go up on cabinets and shelves. Snow scenes and Victorian villages take shape as different rooms take on different themes throughout the house. Needless to say, our decoration preparation starts early in November and ends not many days before Christmas.
Then there are presents to buy. Carole is the master buyer. She begins finding just the right gifts for everyone starting in January and buys throughout the year, so our shopping is done before most people start. It’s also a great way to find bargains and spread the cost of presents. Of course, when buying just the right present in January, it’s easy to forget you have it, so you find another just the right gift in July. I’m not sure how much that saves, then, but it’s great to watch the kids and grandkids open gifts selected especially with their personalities in mind. Carole could be a great professional shopper, but she says that would take the fun out of it.
Last week, we talked about advent being a time of both looking back to the time of Jesus’ coming. A time of celebrating the fact of his arrival and remembering his life and sacrifice for us. We also talked about advent being a time of looking ahead to the time of his return. He promised to come again to be with those who believed in him for salvation for eternity.
The huge question Christians in the first century and Christians today continue to ask is when? When will he come? Our adversaries point to the 2000 year delay and say it’s a hoax. He broke his promise. He never rose from the dead. He never could because when you’re dead, you’re dead. Our faith is a farse and we might as well admit it. As believers, we know otherwise. We know God’s delay demonstrates grace, not failure. 2 Peter 3 reminds us in these words:
But we look forward to what God has promised—a new heaven and a new earth—a place where everything that has God’s approval lives.
Therefore, dear friends, with this to look forward to, make every effort to have him find you at peace, without ⌞spiritual⌟ stains or blemishes. Think of our Lord’s patience as an opportunity ⌞for us⌟ to be saved. This is what our dear brother Paul wrote to you about, using the wisdom God gave him. (2 Peter 3:13-15 GW)
God’s patience in coming is an opportunity for us to be saved. Paul writes about it, Peter writes about it, John writes about it, Jesus says he will come as a thief in the night when no one expects him. So, we patiently await his coming. His delay is not failure or a broken promise, it is for us. God wants to rescue us from sin and delays his coming because when he comes the opportunity for rescue ends. When he comes again, he comes for justice and judgment. God delays his coming to delay his judgment against humanity.
How, then, should we wait? What should we do? Peter points to some of it in these verses. First, be patient. Remember, he will come, but at his choosing, not ours. In the meantime, make every effort to have him find you at peace. What does that mean? I think we need to find ways to engage our fellowman with love. Not what we see spewing out of Facebook and Instagram, but with the fruit of the spirit Paul enumerates in Galatians – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we exercise these characteristics in dealing with others, we will be at peace with others.
We should also make every effort to be without spiritual stains or blemishes, Peter says. What does that mean to us? John reminds us we are all sinners, but we have an advocate who will forgive us and cleanse us from every sin. So, we do everything we can to follow in Jesus’ footsteps of righteousness, knowing that without his spirit in us it is an impossible task and even then, we are bound to err on occasion. But we have an advocate that will help us along the way and we can become more like him each day as we confess our wrongs, ask forgiveness, and strive to not repeat those same mistakes again. We can be better with his help.
Finally, as we wait, we have a mission to perform. Mark reminds us of that first Advent when John the Baptist went about the wilderness preaching about the coming Messiah. The gospel by his name begins this way:
This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The prophet Isaiah wrote,
“I am sending my messenger ahead of you
to prepare the way for you.”
“A voice cries out in the desert:
‘Prepare the way for the Lord!
Make his paths straight!’ ” (Mark 1:1-3 GW)
That was John’s mission, to prepare the way for the Lord, the first time. But Jesus gave us the mission to spread the good news, too. And part of that good news is his promise to return. We, too, prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. We should share the good news that he came, but he is coming again to take those who believe in him for salvation to be with him forever.
I don’t think God expects us to where camel hair clothes, eat honey, and live in the desert, but he probably wouldn’t mind us giving up some of the luxuries we gather around us. He probably would ask us to remember the poor and those who are unable to care for themselves. He probably would ask us to be more generous, think less about our earthly future, and more about our future with him.
Advent comes around every year and it gives us an opportunity to stop and think about Jesus’ coming – past and future. We marvel at the nativity story and how God appeared on that first Christmas in those most humble beginnings. We should stop and think just as much about what his second coming will mean. It won’t be humble and quiet next time. He will come to rule the nations. He will bring justice and judgment to the world.
Remember during this Advent, his delay is for us. As Christians, he gives us one more opportunity to share the good news with someone else who needs to hear the message. For those who have yet to believe in him, he gives one more opportunity for salvation. He is coming and it may be very soon. Be ready.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked GW are taken from the GOD’S WORD (GW): Scripture taken from GOD’S WORD® copyright© 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations. All rights reserved.