Thursday, December 22, 2016

"When are they coming in?"

I work in an elementary school. We are on vacation for two weeks during Christmas until after New Year's. As the excitement among the children builds through the month of December, so does the anticipation of the staff. This is because many folks are hosting their family for the holidays.

The teacher's lounge talk, the chat in the hallways, the conversation in classrooms among staff usually revolve around the question "When are they coming?" Older staff look forward to the arrival of their adult children for an extended visit during the holidays. Of those staff whose children who have grandchildren, the visit is all the more anticipated. "When are they coming in?" is the question of the hour, and travel plans, family plans, and Christmas plans are eagerly and happily shared. The person's eyes light up, the tiredness suddenly seems to leave their slumped shoulders, and their walk becomes downright sprightly.

I remember as a kid the extreme excitement at the thought of extended family arriving later on during Christmas day. For the most part, they lived close by and we got to see them a lot throughout the year. But it was something special on Christmas when we traveled to the grandparents' house, or they came to our house, and we got to visit on the most special day of all. We'd be dressed in our finest, usually toting one favorite gift to show off to the cousins and share and of course play with. There was something precious about being with family on Christmas Day. We looked forward to it with anticipatory shivers of delight.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, (2 Thessalonians 2:1)

Believers have a family that is closer than blood. Our spiritual family is united by virtue of the fact that God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit resides in us. We are scattered across the globe, rarely if ever seeing or hearing from each other at times. But we are united and on one special day, Christmas, we celebrate the Father of this family, God, Jesus Christ, by His Spirit in truth unique to only us. Paul wrote often of wanting to see his earthly spiritual family, as in this example from 1 Thessalonians 2:17,

But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,

Do our eyes light up, our step become more springy, our hearts expand with love at the thought of seeing our spiritual family? Whether we will be seeing them weekly at church or will meet them during the great reunion of the church triumphant in heaven? Are we as highly anticipatory at the thought of being gathered with the brothers and sisters?


Remember even as Christmas comes if you are estranged from your blood family, you have a hundred-fold in heaven. What a reunion that will be!

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29).

Our most eagerly anticipated reunion should be the thought of seeing Jesus as He returns for His saints in the rapture. Paul described what is prophesied to occur and then said these words should be used AS an encouragement.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Do we speak in the hallways or water coolers of His return? Are we excited to see Him? Do we relate details of the upcoming eternal reunion with the same anticipatory enthusiasm as we describe the travel plans of our adult children's arrival home for a Christmas weekend?

As we gather in pleasure and contentment with families this Christmas, let's remember there is an even greater reunion coming. Just as the parents have been laboring to prepare the house for the reunion of their family for the holidays, Jesus has been preparing a place for us and our arrival. It will be clean (of sin), adorned (not with Christmas gifts but as a bride for her husband), shining and bright (not with Christmas lights but with the glory of God).

As a spiritual family we will celebrate the glory of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, forever. The love and adoration we experience at Christmas around the tree on the morning, will be translated, magnified, and permanently eternal. We will gather not around a Christmas tree but around the Tree of Life, Jesus Himself, who IS Life. (John 14:6).

As we await the arrival of our family this weekend, let's actively anticipate and encourage one another with the happy prospect of the great and final family reunion.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21).

Christina Cerda, Unsplash. Text added by author

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