A Muslim friend sent me a message recently asking why we celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25, when that likely wasn’t the day Jesus was actually born. This was a public message on Facebook, by the way, so I’m not sharing any privileged information. I told him he was correct; we have no idea what day Jesus was born. There are details about His birth story that indicate it was more likely in the springtime than winter; it almost certainly wasn’t December 25. But that’s okay. We aren’t literally celebrating Jesus’ birthday as much as we are celebrating the fact that He came into the world in the first place. He then said, “His miraculous birth was a blessing to man, and his return shall be even more.” That surprised me for a moment, and then I remembered that in Islam, they believe--as we do--that Jesus is returning someday. Unlike us, they believe He was merely a prophet, but they do believe in His return. Still, his comment reminded me of something we tend to forget about Christmas.
At Christmas, we tend to get nostalgic. We watch old movies, listen to songs by artists long dead, and think about things we experienced in our childhood. This is one reason why Christmastime is especially hard for people who are in grief. As Christians, we tend to be nostalgic about Christmas, too, but not in a good way. We focus on the baby in the manger, which is real and something worth celebrating. But we forget that we have something else to celebrate at Christmas. Our Christmas story isn’t over; it’s ongoing. We don’t just celebrate what happened on the day Jesus was born, as wonderful as that was. We also look forward to the day He will return, and what that will mean for us. So starting this Sunday (November 29) and continuing until Christmas, I will be preaching on Isaiah 11, a chapter that tells us what we have to look forward to.These words were written 2700 years ago by Isaiah, a prophet who advised four kings of Judah. In this passage, he foretells a coming King. These words were written to desperate people, and they were intended to bring them hope. They should do the same for us. We’ll be electing a president in about a year. I have to tell you, none of our candidates fills me with hope for the future. At best, I look at certain candidates and say, “Well, this one isn’t quite as scary as the others,” or “That one isn’t as much of a train wreck as those would be.” But here is God saying that a ruler is coming who will literally make everything right. Who is this King? What would He accomplish? And what difference should it make for us today? Make time to come this Sunday to Westbury, and receive the hope you need.