Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christ Has Come. Christ Will Come.

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world. At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us in order to rescue us from every kind of lawless behavior, and cleanse a special people for himself who are eager to do good actions. - Titus 2:11-14 (CEB)

Today is Christmas Eve. When I lived in Germany, this was the holiday that was more sacred that Christmas Day itself. This is the day that families would gather together to eat with each other, open presents, go to Church, and sing Silent Night (Stille Nacht). Today is the main family holiday for Germans. Because of this, it is also one of the loneliest holidays if one is separated from one's family.

Silent Night has a sacredness to it so that if one sang it too early, one would be scolded. An interesting fact that I learned is that Germans believe that Christ was born on Christmas Eve. This is why this day is called "Heiligabend," or "Holy Evening." "Christmas" is "Weihnachten," which means "Dedicated Night."

I miss Christmas in Germany:  the Christmas Markets, the smell of roasted candied almonds, the candles, the decorations of pine branches everywhere, the dark nights. I loved how German Churches place a very special emphasis on Advent, even more so than my own traditional American Christmas. There was a distinction placed even between Advent Songs and Christmas Songs. (Those who attend Lutheran Churches will know what I'm talking about.)

Which brings me to the Scripture passage. Advent is over, but there is still an expectation. Christ came into this world, but we expect him to come again. For some, this could lend many people to think, "Oh, well. Christ is coming again. Why should we care about what is happening in this world?" I once had to reprimand a friend of mine who decided to throw something in the regular garbage when he could have easily recycled it. His response was that the world was going to be destroyed by fire anyway. That puzzled me and disturbed me a lot.

Jesus didn't come into this world so that we could wait for a better world after we died. Jesus came to give us life in abundance now, not just in the future, but for now. Christ "educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world." This is for now, not sometime off in the distant.

Yet at the same time we have the hope of Christ returning to us. In many ways this expectation of Christ returning to us only reemphasizes for me the constancy of God's character.

What does that mean for me? The everlasting life is something we experience now, not just after death. Live your life to the fullest with Christ as your guide.

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