Have We Given Up on Jesus?

Icon_second_comingWhy is Christmas so overblown?

Maybe it’s because we’ve given up on the Second Coming of Christ.

I hadn’t thought about that before yesterday, but as I was looking at all the references to the Second Coming in the New Testament (some 57 of them) I was reminded of those funeral services I’ve been to where people want to “celebrate the life” of the deceased rather than “mourn the death.” They want to focus on the positive, that is, and so they focus on all the happy memories of a well-lived life.

That’s not a bad thing to do, but we Christians believe in the resurrection of the body. We believe that death is not the end of life, but in so many ways only the beginning. The old preachers had a way of pointing us forward—toward that hope—and not only back.

I think the old preachers used to do that with the Second Coming, too (and I mean the really old preachers, like Paul, and Peter, and some of those others whose writings ended up in the New Testament). Some of them were so excited about the return of Christ that they didn’t spend much time “celebrating his life.”

They just kept watching the skies.

But that was 2,000 years ago, when it was a little easier to believe that “this Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Now we are almost embarrassed to mention it.  It’s been too long.  Surely, if he were coming, he would have come by now.  And so, instead of looking forward to the Second Coming, we look back to the first one, and celebrate it as if it were all we would ever have.

Have we given up on Jesus?  Do we no longer believe that one of these days he will come back, and the Kingdom of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever (Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!)?  Is that why we go crazy at Christmas, and rush around buying presents for each other?  Is that why we crank up the Christmas carols and talk about Santa Claus coming to town?

I preached at First African Baptist Church yesterday and ended with a true story about a P.O.W. who came home after seven years in a North Vietnamese prison camp to find his wife waiting for him.  Although friends and relatives had suggested that he might never come back, and that she probably ought to move on with her life, she had never given up.  He had told her he would come home and she believed him.

She was there waiting for him when he got off the plane.

He said later that she wasn’t the same girl he married; she was no longer a blushing teenage bride.  In the time he had been away she had become a strong, confident, capable woman.

She’d had to.

New Testament scholar Hans Conzelmann used to say that this period between Christ’s ascension and his return is “the Church’s time.”  It’s our time to fulfill the commission Christ gave us, and to do everything in our power to bring heaven to earth.  But Jesus himself said he was going to come back some day.  When he does I hope he will find what that prisoner of war found:

1. That his bride has waited for him, and,
2. That she has become strong, confident, and capable.

5 thoughts on “Have We Given Up on Jesus?

  1. What a great post. It certainly puts the celebrations of Christmas into a better perspective. We can still have a “Merry” time, but we can never forget that the focus of Christ’s life is His second coming-a time when we will not know when and, therefore, need to be prepared at all times. Thanks

  2. When my mother died and her funeral was held in May 2008, I asked the minister conducting her funeral to tell those attending her funeral that the funeral should be a time of celebration. Even though my mother had been a good person, like the rest of us she was not perfect. Her life, except for the fact that she had lived to be 90 years old, had not been exceptional. When I asked the minister to consider my mother’s funeral to be a time of celebration, the celebration was for the fact that my mother, in death, had finally achieved the goal she had been looking forward to attaining. My mother fully expected to go to Heaven upon her death and was looking forward to being reunited with her beloved parents, her older brother, her younger sister, her husband, and her oldest son who had already died. My mother was looking forward to leaving her elderly and broken body behind and having a new healthy body. My mother believed and fully expected that all this would happen upon her death. This is what I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to celebrate that she was finally beyond the hurt and pain of this world. Whether one believes that the things she was looking forward to were going to actually going to happen is not important. She believed that it was going to happen and that is all that matters. This belief is what kept her going over the years. So, at her funeral we did not so much celebrate her life which had it share of pain and sorrow as we celebrated the fact that she had left all that pain and sorrow behind and was finally at rest. Even though I miss my mother and I guess I always will, I still celebrate the fact that she is beyond the hurt and pain that sometimes comes with life.

  3. My previous lengthy entry might not seem to have much to do with Jim’s blog entry, but it really has a lot to do with it. Being a Christian, my mother believed in the “resurrection of the body” and she believed “that death is not the end of life, but in so many ways only the beginning”. I wanted the minister conducting my mother’s funeral to point those attending her funeral “forward-toward that hope-and not only back”. Being a member in good standing of a Pentecostal Holiness Church, my mother firmly believed in the Second Coming of Christ. My mother enjoyed celebrating Christmas and Christ’s first coming, but she never lost sight of the fact that she believed that he was coming back again.

  4. thanks for this sobering reminder that HE is coming back – yes!

    well said:
    “He will come back, and the Kingdom of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever (Hallelujah! Hallelujah!)”

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