Today is Friday, the 30th of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the sixth day of Christmas.
May the peace of Christ be with you, always!
There are two days left in 2022. It is “New Year’s Eve Eve.”
We may or may not have plans for New Year’s Eve. We may have someone over, but that has not yet been determined. I’m not working, though, so it will be a nice, relaxing day.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalms 119:72 ESV)
O Lord God, in exultation our hearts go out to you and your revelation of heaven, your revelation of the Spirit, who can fill our hearts so that we remain steadfast throughout our earthly life. It is still dark on earth. Sin and death hold sway, but we stand unafraid and seek repentance. In spite of all our failures we look to you and know you are our Savior. You send us Jesus Christ in your own glory. The world will be filled with light. Everywhere on earth, even among those who do not know you, the sincere-hearted will come to acknowledge that you, the Father of Jesus Christ and our Father, are God over all the world. You will show your glory to all people so that they may come to you, worship you, and walk in the light, to the everlasting glory of your name. Amen.
And Mary said: "My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name." Luke 1:46–49, NIV
Today I am grateful:
- for hope — no matter how dark things seem to get, there is always hope
- that Jesus is my savior, in spite of all my failure (hey, that rhymes!)
- for quiet mornings with coffee
- for new beginnings, as a new year approaches
- for the hope of the ultimate “new beginning,” which will last for eternity
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:17-25 ESV)
Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
(Matthew 25:13 NRSV)
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
(Psalms 69:3 NRSV)
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.”
(Luke 12:35-36 NRSV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:3-9 NRSV)
singing, “We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”
(Revelation 11:17 NRSV)
As 2023 approaches, there is much anticipation of better things to come. In fact, for the past three years, there has been an air of hope for things to get “better,” as each new year’s day approaches. But have they?
The image that comes to mind, as I consider national and world events, over the course of the past few years, is that of a snowball barreling down the side of a mountain, unstoppable, crushing everything in its path.
My, isn’t that uplifting.
It has become evident to many of us (perhaps not to all, yet) that things are never going back to “normal.” Whatever that is.
In spite of all of this, though, and in spite of my mindset, which might appear to be somewhat cynical to some, I see hope for the future. But that hope is not for the planet, as it is, currently. That hope is for the new creation described by Isaiah, and then later by John the Revelator. God proclaims that He is creating a new heaven and a new earth. The images that we get from both of those sources is stunning and stirring. There are images of an eternal day, where it never gets dark again. In fact, according to Revelation 21:23, the sun or moon are no longer needed, because “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”
But here’s the thing. None of us has a clue when that is coming. Oh, sure, there are people who think they have clues. I have no confidence in them, though. Just recently, for example, there arose a great hubbub because the Euphrates river was drying up.
The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
(Revelation 16:12 NRSV)
“It’s going to be soon!” people cried. Never mind the fact that none of the things that are supposed to happen before that have happened yet. Also never mind the fact that Revelation is not meant to be interpreted literally. But, hey. If you insist on interpreting Revelation literally, then at least do it the favor of keeping things in the right order.
Here’s the thing. We don’t know when Christ is returning. According to Jesus, even He didn’t know!
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
(Matthew 24:36 NRSV)
So if Jesus, Himself, doesn’t know when He is returning, I certainly don’t know, and you certainly don’t know. We aren’t clever enough to figure it out, either.
But what we can do is be ready. Just like those wise virgins at the wedding in that one parable, we can have our lamps trimmed, with plenty of oil, and be ready. I used to have a t-shirt (back in my college days) that said, “Are you ready?” and referenced Luke 12:40. One day, I wore that t-shirt into a store, and a guy who worked there asked me, “What does Luke 12:40 say?”
I had no clue. How embarrassing.
But you can bet that I have known since that day.
“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
(Luke 12:40 NRSV)
I can’t say that I have lived my life, since then, in a constant state of readiness. I like to think that I am ready. But what if God’s plan was complete, and I’m engaged in some “less than holy” activity? I’ll be surprised, won’t I? I mean, I’ll be surprised, anyway, but this would be the worst kind of surprise. We’ve all heard the phrase “caught with your pants down,” right? Or something similar. I dare say we don’t want to be “caught with our pants down” when Jesus returns.
It reminds me of that line in the Paul Simon song, “Call Me Al.” It’s in the second verse:
A man walks down the street He says, "Why am I short of attention? Got a short little span of attention And, whoa, my nights are so long Where's my wife and family? What if I die here? Who'll be my role model Now that my role model is gone, gone?" He ducked back down the alley With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl All along, along There were incidents and accidents There were hints and allegations
“What if I die here?”
Have you ever been in a situation where, if you died there, unexpectedly, it would be a terrible embarrassment to you and your family?
I have decided that a great “rule of thumb” for life is never go anywhere or do anything where you wouldn’t want to be caught dead.
And I believe that is, in a way, the spirit behind Jesus’s admonition for us to be ready. Because we don’t know when He’s coming. If we knew, we could, you know, wait until the last minute to prepare, and it seems that a lot of us are doing that, anyway. But we don’t know when that “last minute” is, so we’re likely to be caught unready, like the foolish virgins in that same parable.
The picture that is presented to us is so beautiful! The new heaven and new earth is such a beautiful picture that I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to be part of it. I don’t know what we will look like. I don’t know what kind of “bodies” we will have. I don’t know if we will recognize each other as our former identities on earth. But I know it will be beautiful, it will be eternal, and it will be Home.
So I want to be ready. Pants up, arms wide open, lamp trimmed and full of oil, wide awake.
I will say that this went in a totally different direction than I was anticipating.
Father, I praise You for the visions of Isaiah and John, visions that give us such hope for our future in Your kingdom. I pray that You would help us to be ready for the return of Christ, as we do not know when it will happen. Help us, when tempted, to recall the words of Jesus, admonishing us to be wise, wide awake, and ready, so that we are not taken by surprise when that day comes.
It is too easy to become complacent, because of how long it has been. We are tempted to be lazy; we are tempted to not be diligent in prayer and worship, because we fall into the mindset that we have plenty of time to get “caught up” in these things, even though getting “caught up” in prayer is a laughable notion.
Father, You are our everything. The Holy Trinity is our essence of life, our water, our food; everything we need in this life, You have given us. You are our Creator and our Sustainer. To whom else would we turn, Lord? Please keep us awake and diligent. Please keep us ready.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.