There is much talk at this time of year about “Christmas spirit”. The most common practice linked to that “Christmas spirit” would probably be gift giving, perhaps followed by just being kind to people and doing good things for people.
We would like for you to consider a different aspect of the “Christmas spirit” - the spirit of “expectancy”.
As we read through the Old Testament, we read about a group of people (the nation of Israel) who very often found themselves enslaved by some other group of people and they looked for a deliverer to set them free from their bondage, slavery, and oppression. They looked for the Messiah to be that person.
But more importantly, through the giving of “the Law”, especially what we read in Leviticus, we find that God shows the people that they are enslaved to sin and need a Deliverer to set them free from their bondage to sin. (The sacrifices only “covered” their sin - they did not atone, or make propitiation, for sin). It seems significant to us that so soon after Israel is delivered from the physical slavery and bondage in Egypt, God reveals to them their greater need – deliverance from their bondage to sin. However, the focus of these people seemed to be (and seems to be so today as well) a nation (Israel) in which God’s rule and blessing and the nation’s protection from all other nations was evident. The spiritual aspects, on the other hand, seemed of little concern to the people of Israel as a whole. But there is always a remnant of God’s people that are true to Him, who take God at His Word and believe His promises. And so, various prophecies had been given to Israel concerning a Messiah that would come at some time in the future. These prophecies were unknown by many – they lived their lives willfully ignorant of God’s revelation. Others knew the prophecies that had been given, but those prophecies had no impact on their daily lives. For the remnant of true believers, however, those promises of God were believed and eagerly anticipated! (Those same three types of people can be found in the world today – and in the church today as well!)
Let’s look at the Biblical record found in Luke 2:25-38 "And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “ Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
We can see from this last statement that there were others, besides Anna and Simeon, who waited and watched for the promised Deliverer. For example, we read in Mark 15: 43 that “Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”
It is NOT our intention to enumerate the MANY prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah which were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. However, we believe it IS necessary to see that there WERE many such prophecies and to recognize the importance of prophecy to Christianity.
John 14:29 says “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” ONLY in Christianity do we have the future foretold, hundreds and sometimes thousands of years ahead of time, with 100% accuracy!
In Deut. 18:15-22 we read: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
2 Peter 1:19-21 "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
We know that there are many things that are part of the “Christmas Holiday” that have NOTHING to do with the birth of the Savior. There are many things that are clearly error, many other things are purely speculation, and many things that are simply traditions of men (see Mark 7).
BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT THE MESSIAH DID COME ! HE CAME!
Gal. 4:4-5 says “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” This single verse in Gal. 4:4 is a synopsis of the Christmas account recorded in more detail in Matthew 1:18-3:3.
That same Christmas spirit of expectancy should be ours today!
Why? Because just as it was prophesied that the Messiah WOULD come, and He DID come, so it has been prophesied that He WILL come again, and so He shall!
In Acts 1:9-11 we read “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;”
God spoke through the prophets to proclaim that the Messiah would come.
Now God has spoken through His Son (Jesus) Who says that He will return!
In John 14:2-3 Jesus said “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” And in verse 28(a) “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’
Do we have the Christmas spirit of expectancy?
We read in 2 Peter 3:1-4 “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
While this text itself is prophetic, it is also a practical warning for us. We are concerned for ourselves, for you, and for all believers – lest we become atrophied and apathetic and lose our zeal and excitement about God and lose the expectancy that should motivate us, cheer us up, and give us comfort and hope. As time passes, even those with strong faith can lose ground and live with the head knowledge of what the prophecies say, but living in such a way that those promises do not impact our daily life and we no longer are thrilled each day just to think – He could return TODAY!
Consider these few examples:
Romans 8:18-25 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
1 Cor. 1:4-8 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Luke 21:34-36 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Luke 12:35-38 “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master,when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.”
Because He DID come, we have grace and truth and salvation!
Because He WILL come again, we have comfort and hope!
Do we have the Christmas spirit of expectancy?
God said, "For they shall not be ashamed [disappointed] who wait for Me." (Isaiah 49:23)