Enjoying the First but Longing for the Second
by Joseph Franks
Each Christmas season, the air is filled with smells and bells. Kitchens are filled with lavish meals and desserts, while churches are filled with joyful worshipers. For a brief time, all is right. Fellowship is preferred; faith, hope, and love are expressed; carols and hymns abound, and Christ is honored.
But here is something to think about this Christmas Day. If the first coming of Jesus Christ — that of humiliation — is lauded and enjoyed, how much more will his second coming — that of exaltation — be celebrated? And if he is coming again, how should we serve him on this Christmas Day and every day hereafter?
Paul speaks of Christ’s first coming:
Philippians 2:6-8 Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
He then transitions to speak of Jesus’ current reality:
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul then comments on how Christians ought to celebrate Christmas until the final day of his Christ’s second coming:
Philippians 2:12-16 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Friends, Jesus Christ is in heaven. He is not a babe in the manger. He is not an innocent man on a cross. He is not a dead convict in the grave. No, we serve a risen and ascended Savior:
Acts 1:9-11 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
In heaven, Jesus is King of kings. He is not frustrated by wickedness. He is not kept in his place by the Dark Side. He is exalted high, and he rules over all:
1 Peter 3:22 [Christ] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
His reign is not limited to the gates of heaven. His sovereignly rules over all the affairs of man. And gradually, in the midst of a wicked and perverse world, his church is being expanded in the face of Satan across the globe:
Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Ultimate victory is assured. Those who choose to submit to him will parade with him in victory. However, those who kiss not the Son will find themselves broken and damned:
1 Corinthians 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Revelation 19:11-16 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
So how ought we to live? How ought we to Christmas? How should the honorable and prudent Christ-worshiper enjoy his first coming while longing for his second?
Let us obey. He is the King, and we are his subjects. Do what he desires. Please him. Bow the knee and submit to his manner of living life.
Let us trust. There is no room for hopeless, pessimistic depression. He is doing what he wills with demons, angels, governments, storms, diseases, men and women. He is oft times mysterious and confusing, but he is always watching and caring for his sheep. He is not a pathetic deity with limited power, but an omnipotent Sovereign who holds the whole world in his hand.
Let us be humble. Let us not look too highly upon ourselves. Let us also not sit in awe of famous individuals in our culture. Jesus Christ is the Supreme Being. Let us reserve all our fascination for him, and let us walk about humbly serving one another after his model.
Let us worship. At his first coming, angels came from heaven and magi came from afar. While he walked this earth, he received the rightful adoration shown to him by many men and women. Now that he is in Paradise, praise is to be given to him from “all ye heavenly host” and “all creatures here below.” Let us gather on the Lord’s Day, at the Lord’s House, with the Lord’s People, and use the Lord’s Prayer to guide us in giving the Lord great pleasure and honor.
Let us shine brilliantly and evangelize boldly. May we minister well with deeds and words so that more might enjoy the Kingdom of God. He is sovereignly extending patience to the sinful world. Therefore, during this season of God’s long-suffering mercy, let us use the days well and find more of his friends.
Finally, as we celebrate Christmas today, and every day, let us pant and pray for the second coming. That will be the day when all that is wrong will completely be made right. At his second advent, the curse will be finally removed. It will be then that the lion will lay down with the lamb. On that final day there will be no more tears for some. At least, peace will be found on earth and goodwill ultimately shown to and through all men upon whom God’s favor rests.