What is the end of the Christmas Story?
Perhaps when Mary was treasuring these things in her heart and the shepherds were returning and praising God? (Luke 2:19,20)
Or maybe when the magi were worshiping and presenting their treasures? (Matthew 2:11)
Too often, that is where we stop celebrating in December. A sweet baby (the Son of God) is born in humble surroundings and certain segments of the population respond with fitting praise and wonder. The end. But, as we have seen in our devotions this week, that is far from the end of the story. I have enjoyed reading through Luke especially at this time of year to see once again what we are REALLY celebrating.
Jesus came as a baby – and what a great opening act that was (you, know the opening act that followed thousands of years of God setting the stage)!! And 30 years later all sorts of people (fishermen, tax-collectors, sinners, chief priests, foreigners, the sick and diseased, teachers of the law, governors and kings and politicians, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, men, women and children) all prepare to meet this traveling preacher, teacher, healer, miracle maker, story-teller, leader, servant. His favorite topic is always the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1). Through his teaching, his parables, and his miracles, the world sees a clearer picture of God than they have ever seen before. The son truly has his Father’s resemblance.
And, he also is committed to doing his Father’s will – even when that means death on the cross, crucified as a criminal, to take away the sins of the world. His followers are crushed as they were sure this Jesus was going to set up the Kingdom on earth and begin his reign right then. How could they have been so wrong?
Thankfully, that is still not the end. Three days later…the tomb is empty! Joy to the World!! Jesus appears to his disciples and uses Scripture to explain to them again how the Old Testament foretold what must take place.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:22-28
A way was needed for both Jews and Gentiles to be washed clean before they could be full citizens of God’s Kingdom. And Jesus’ death made the way. And his resurrection gives the hope for a future resurrection. For there is one more key element that must take place before Jesus will begin his reign over all the world and the Kingdom of God will fully begin. This is hinted above in Luke 24:47 and spelled out in Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
There have been many godly men and women who have died while preaching the gospel – but still the good news has not reached all people in all nations. The Church of God mourned the death of a very special and faithful pastor, Rex Cain, just this week. But the mourning was not without hope because the Christmas story isn’t over yet.
In the final verses of Luke (24:51), Jesus ascends into heaven. When the same event is recorded in the book of Acts (Luke’s sequel) the disciples are told, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). The best is yet to come!
The end of the Christmas story is a new beginning. A beginning that is still to come. When Jesus breaks through the clouds at his Second Coming this will be the start of his reign on Earth over all who have been faithful. The dead in Christ will rise and we will see Jesus coming – not as a babe but as a triumphant warrior and king. A new heaven and a new earth will worship him and his Father.
I pray I will be found ready. And I pray you will be found ready. Let’s get to work and tell the nations!
“Come, Lord Jesus!”(Revelation 22:20 b)