As of Sunday, November 29, you officially have 26 days of shopping until Christmas. Don’t worry because we can shop any time of the day or night and just wait for the packages to arrive in the mail. According to theWashington Post, UPS will ship somewhere around 750 million packages this holiday season. They’ll do the work, and all we have to do is click and wait.
A number of years ago, CNN told the story of Charles McKinley’s attempt to surprise his family—which I wouldn’t recommend—when he shipped himself in a crate from his home in New York to his parents’ home in Dallas. Somehow he actually made it, but the final deliveryman saw Mr. McKinley through a crack in the crate and called the police. Unfortunately, he was arrested for an unrelated and outstanding warrant.
Christmas is certainly a time of waiting and expectation. The vast majority of our lives is filled with waiting and preparation while only a fraction is filled with actual experience, celebration, or doing stuff. Consider the Thanksgiving meal many of us recently enjoyed. How long did it take to prepare it? How long did it take to eat?
The primary point of the Old Testament is preparation for one moment – Jesus coming to earth. All the way back to the beginning of time when Adam and Eve fell into sin, God declared to the serpent in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” From the moment of the first sin, the entire Old Testament prepares and points us to the great moment when our Savior and Messiah came to save us from the curse of sin.
As we think about the “Cast of Christmas”, it all begins with the prophets. The Old Testament prophets prepared the world to meet Jesus. What did they say?
Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethelehm ephratha, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Jesus would be the descendant of David. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (Samuel) – “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
Jesus would be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14 – “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call him Immaneul.”
The days leading up to Christmas are the perfect time for us to wait and prepare. It’s good to be ready for Christmas. But it’s better to be ready to meet Jesus. John the Baptist was the last prophet who had to wait for Jesus’s first arrival. He shows us how to prepare our hearts for Jesus in our lives now and how to prepare our hearts.
In Matthew 3:2, John says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Repentance in its simplest definition means “to turn.” So, John isn’t calling out, “You all better start feeling really guilty for all the things you’ve done.” He’s not saying, “I want you to feel really bad.” Understand that repentance certainly can begin with feeling really bad. But what John is saying is, “Change your life. Reconsider how you think about things, and begin to think and act differently. Turn back to God.” Christmas is a great time to turn from your sin and turn to Jesus.
We prepare to meet Jesus with Fruit.
There is one test that demonstrates whether or not you or another person has truly repented: your behavior will change. In Matthew 3:8, John tells people how to prepare to meet Jesus with repentance, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.”
True repentance results in a changed life – fruit. That’s not the test for whether or not you are saved. The test for your salvation is found in Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” John 3:16 says, “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We take God at His Word. The test for a heart that is active in its preparation to meet Jesus is the test of whether or not we see evidence of fruit in our lives.
There are all sorts of varieties of spiritual fruit that God wants in our life: increased service, a closer relationship with God, a greater ability to encourage or care for others, a stronger family life, victory over sin, greater peace, deeper love. Think of your life three or four Christmases ago. Do you have more fruit in your life? Prepare to meet Jesus by producing fruit in your life for Him.
We can’t prepare for Jesus’ first coming. That has already happened. But we can prepare when we see Him again, whether His second coming or our going to Him. How do we prepare? By repentance and producing fruit.