The Bare Soul - December 25, 2011
Longing for Messiah

Matthew 2:10 - When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Christmas was always a special time for me as a child. In my elementary years, I remember planning for the yuletide season weeks and months before the big day. I had some understanding that this was indeed the birth of Christ. However, as most children, I was consumed with the rapturous longing for the expectancy of Christmas Eve and the wonder of the next morning. Years past as did the charm of Christmas. In my teens and up into my 20s, I found the season I once embraced with much affection becoming something I almost dreaded. My cynicism with the commercialism turned me off as it has likewise done with many others. It took finding the Savior to help me find the correct balance---to respect the tradition of this day where we celebrate Christ's birth, along with the made-up, pretend aspect of this joyful season. While I am well aware of the arguments for and against Christians celebrating a supposed pagan holiday in reference to Christ's birth, I suppose I look more at how the Lord sometimes uses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise (I Corinthians 1:27). Therefore, I don't believe anyone does this holiday perfectly, the way God intends. However, as long as both non-believers and believers are drawn to consider Jesus Christ's first advent on this 25th day in December, I see far more good than harm as a result. God has undoubtedly used this season to bring many souls into His kingdom. In this I rejoice! However, to those whom much is given, much is required. For those of us who understand the significance of Christ's first advent, we should invariably be drawn into an expectancy of His return. It is incompatible to divorce the significance of one from the other, both historically and contemporarily.

At this time of year, I invariably think about those three Magi who traveled hundreds of miles from the area of Babylon to celebrate our Savior's birth. These men may have known Yahweh. However, they might just have easily not, especially since they probably studied astronomy and astrology under the pagan Medo-Persian religious order of Zoroaster. All we know is that Daniel prophesied the coming of a Great King, the Messiah, in Daniel 9 and they ascertained his birth to be in their lifetimes. The prophet states:

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. - Daniel 9:24-25

The 69 weeks mentioned in these scriptures are symbolic of 69 years times the number of days in a week, seven. From history, we know that Artaxerxes, King of Persia issued a decree on March 14th, 445 BC. The aforementioned 69 years times seven years would equal 476 years plus 24 days (on the Jewish lunar calendar consisting of 29.5 days per month) thereby culminating on the very day Jesus would make His triumphal entry into Jesus as "Messiah the Prince" (April 6, 32 AD). This is important to know in regard to the Magi. With the precision of Daniel's prophecy regarding the advent of the Messiah, the Wise Men knew his approximate time of birth by calculating the age of someone proclaiming Himself as the Messiah. This Person would need to be at least 30 years of age to comply with Jewish laws of manhood. Therefore, the Magi were expectant and overjoyed at the appearing of the star, knowing this was surely the sign of the Prince's appearing. Their journey to ancient Palestine resulted in the familiar story we all know so well in Matthew 2:1-12. We are told how they returned to their own country after visiting the child and his parents, thereby ending their story according to scripture. However, it is easy to imagine how they presumably understood the saga of this Messiah Prince had only begun. Just as they were able to figure out mathematically the time of Christ's first appearing, they knew that a future event yet to be revealed would mean Christ's return. They probably didn't understand all of the implications of His second coming. However, we can certainly believe they knew the final week, or the 70th week in Daniel's prophecy, was to be fulfilled at a later date. Their faith undoubtedly became strong by participating in His first advent, while they looked futuristically to His imminent return.

Ironically, the entire world has the same information today that these Zoroastrian Magi possessed nearly 2000 years ago. Unlike many today, these Wise Men of ancient times were expectantly waiting for the revelation of the Messiah. While many today look forward to what we call Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Christ, I wonder how many who call themselves Christians long for the second appearing of Jesus? When He comes again, He will not come as a babe, but as the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. While many can look forward to a holiday celebrating His birth, how many long for Him and the revelation of what His birth means to us all? And, of equal or greater importance, how many of us desire to know the Man grown up from that manger who was once covered in swaddling clothes? Beloved, I suggest it is hypocritical to suggest how one can love Christ's first advent celebrating His birth, but not be expectantly waiting for His second coming. The two are inextricably linked. My mention earlier that more good is done than harm by celebrating Christmas, I should now further qualify. We cannot be content to just celebrate the Savior's birth. If that is all we do, then we have stopped short of God's intent and aborted the Christ child, not allowing Him to grow to full stature in our hearts. He is coming again, and if we are expecting a sweet baby we will be horrifically disappointed. The Christmas Child is meant to grow and become first our Savior and Lord and then our friend. If we refuse to give up the silly notion that Jesus came once only to give us a reason to celebrate the birth of the Savior, then we come woefully short of the mark. If, however, we embrace not only the Christ-child and the expectancy of His future return, then we fulfill His desire for men and women who celebrate His ENTIRE life. He is coming after a holy bride that anticipates His coming, purifying herself as she waits (I John 3:2-3). May we all be "wise men", calculating the impact on our lives by both his first and second advent. Otherwise, we may reveal our foolishness at His great appearing by our falling short of His wonderful intention for our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank You for revealing from Your word the first great advent of Your Son. While no man knows the day nor the hour of His second coming, may we all ready ourselves by loving his first appearing and longing for His most certain return. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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