‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
I have a Christmas confession. I’ve spent more of my life believing Santa was coming to town than I have believed that Jesus was coming back. As a child I wrote a list, checked it twice, added to it, set out cookies and milk, and spent many restless nights in anticipation. I can even remember my grandma’s voice singing: Coming again, Coming again,
Coming again, Coming again, May be morning, may be noon, May be evening and may be soon! Coming again, Coming again; O what a wonderful day it will be – Jesus is coming again!
Sadly, I read stories about Jesus coming, was told he was coming, I was even sung to that he was coming, but I did little to prepare for his arrival. Even as an adult I wonder if I put more thought into Christmas present preparations than I do preparing my heart for the Prince of Peace.
I know Jesus is coming back, but a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like he’s coming back. Because it doesn’t feel like he’s coming back, I don’t prepare like he’s coming back. Lately, I’ve been wondering why I struggle to believe these words: He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! I’ve come up with a few ideas.
I struggle with delayed promises. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted so desperately to go to a particular place or experience a specific event? Your mom or dad said, “We’re going to do it!” You said, “When?” They said, “Soon”. The same conversation took place a dozen times (It probably was twice). It never happened. Eventually, you just stopped asking. Jesus said he was coming back. He promised he would, but in our minds, it’s been a long time. Maybe, like disappointed children, we’ve just stopped asking for it to happen or believing it’s going to happen.
I’m impatient. When I was in college if a professor was running late we’d give him or her 10 minutes before we’d roll out. Ten minutes. Ten whole minutes. If Prof was a no-show, there was no way we were sticking around. I wonder if we don’t operate in much the same way in life. “Ten minutes, Lord. I’ll stick around for 10 minutes, but if you don’t come, I won’t stay. I’m getting back to work. I’m going back to doing my own thing. I don’t want to waste my time waiting around. I’ve waited long enough.” We tell ourselves we don’t want to waste our time banking on something so uncertain. Oddly enough, Scripture tells us it’s actually quite certain.
I wrestle with unbelief. If family or friends are coming over we prepare for their arrival. We pick up. We make sure we have drinks. We put out some cookies. We brew a pot of coffee. We get ready. If no one is coming over I usually don’t set out cookies. I eat cookies, but I don’t set them out. I’ll brew a few cups of coffee, but not a pot. I don’t worry about the mess in the corner of the room. I’m not concerned with picking up my shoes. Can I be honest? Functionally I live too much of my life not believing that God’s word is true.
Here’s what I’m reminding myself as I ask God to prepare my heart this Christmas season:
The Lord keeps his promises. God has a stellar record of actually doing what He says He’s going to do. In fact, He has the only perfect record ever recorded. He can be trusted. As we near Christmas I’m reminded as I read through Scripture that the promises made by the Old Testament prophets were fulfilled in Christ’s coming. Hundreds of years passed, but God’s promises were not empty. I have ever reason to believe that God will continue to operate in his character and fulfill what He promised. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (Deut 7:9).
The Lord is patient with me when I’m impatient with Him. God is so gracious to me. God saved me as a young child. He’s been patiently working on me my whole life. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way in my 30 years of walking with Him. Sometimes the tale of the tape tells a different story. Yet, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…” (2 Peter 3:9)
God can handle my unbelief. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) God calls His kids to trust him. He calls us to a life of faith. When I repent and ask God to help me believe, He hears my prayers. He graciously, kindly, and patiently strengthens me. Sometimes this process is painful. It is rarely clean. I wish my unbelief moved way for good, but sometimes I think it just moves a few doors down and too frequently comes over as an unwanted visitor. When that happens, I find myself praying again, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
Jesus is coming again. As Christmas nears, I pray you’ll prepare your heart for his arrival.