On the 1st day of Advent my Savior gave to me: a parable on a fig tree. Look at the shopping malls and the strip malls. As soon as they sprout plastic candy canes and plywood elves you know that Christmas is coming. I hope no one is offended by this parable. But I see a connection between Jesus’ parable about the fig tree and the season we are celebrating.
Of course in the parable of the fig tree, Jesus is talking about the Day of the Lord, Judgment Day, the second coming. He had already told his disciples that the day of the Lord was coming. He also knew that their hour of testing was coming. Jesus was headed for Jerusalem where he knew he would be arrested, tried and crucified. He also knew that God’s judgment was coming on the world one day and that he would preside over it.
So he told the disciples a parable to prepare them. It was spring as Jesus and the disciples headed for Jerusalem. And Jesus noticed the buds appearing on the trees. So he said, “When you see leaves appearing on the trees you know that summer is near. In the same way when you see these things happening you know that the time is near.” Then Jesus went on to warn them to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
There are a number of ways that the signs of the Christmas season can teach us to be ready for the coming of Christ. First of all there is the whole commercialization of the season. It has been transformed by many from a time of celebrating God’s gift to the human race and it has become a time of making money. The Christmas season is the time of the year when many stores and manufacturers make enough money to get through for another year. And often in the midst of all this the original, true, meaning of the holiday is lost.
Of course the world does this kind of thing all the time. Jesus himself warned against letting the worries of the day distract us. The demands of our day to day lives often draws our attention away from God’s demand on our lives. We begin worrying about the economics of life instead of the reality of God’s truth.
So learn a lesson from the commercialism you see in this season. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of life keep you from communing with the Lord. This season more than any other gives you the opportunity to put that into practice. Begin by making service to the Lord a priority this Christmas. Make time to worship and read the Bible and pray. Make time to visit friends and family and strengthen those relationships. Make time to reach out to: the needy, the lonely, the lost.
Another lesson we can learn from this season is a childlike faith. One of the enduring symbols of our season is the child looking out the window. We see it in Christmas cards and we hear it in songs. We have all seen that expectation in our children and perhaps we can even remember experiencing it ourselves. They truly believe and watch for something or someone to come down out of the sky to bring them gifts from the top of the world.
Of course we adults don’t look at life the same way children do. You tell them that Santa is coming soon and they run to the window to look. Jesus tells us that he is coming again soon and we have to think about it and doubt. We say to ourselves, “Jesus said that almost 2,000 years ago and he still hasn’t come.” And instead of running to the window to look, we just walk away.
But this season can teach us to regain that sense of expectation. Jesus told his disciples to have a childlike faith. Perhaps like children we can learn to place our faith in the coming of Christ without needing to pin it down on a calendar. Like the children on the Christmas cards, we can look expectantly to the sky for Jesus to return. And we can believe that even though he hasn’t come yet, he surely is coming again. And maybe in expectation we can see Jesus being born anew in our lives.
Another lesson we can learn from this season is the power of the gift given. You notice, I didn’t say the power of a gift. Melissa and I have a bad habit of buying gifts early and then forgetting where we put them. We discover them later after the holiday or birthday they were intended for has passed. Back in February of 1996 we were in Arizona, and I bought a geode for my sister. My sister used to collect rocks and I thought she would like that. I intended to give it to her for her birthday in July, but that passed and I forgot. So then I intended it for Christmas later that year, but that passed too. To make a long story short she didn’t get it until Christmas 1998! Gifts don’t do much good sitting on a shelf or in a drawer. But once a gift is given, it is able to convey more than its material worth. A gift given has the power to convey the love of the giver.
At the heart of Christmas and all its gift giving is God giving his only begotten Son. And Jesus was a gift of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.”(John 3:16) And consider the power of that gift given! For God sent his Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it.
If we truly learn that lesson then we too can be gift givers. I’m not just talking about the giving of tokens of affection wrapped up in boxes. I’m speaking of giving of ourselves. We can learn the power of giving of ourselves for others. The power of giving time and energy and talents to God’s work. It will be good if you take an angel off the angel tree and give a package to a needy child. It will be better if you also spend some time with a lonely neighbor or a child. It will be wonderful if you also share Jesus with someone this season. But intending to give the gift is not enough, like that geode for my sister the gift must be given. Then when we have given away all that Jesus has given us, we will be ready for His return.
So look at the signs of the season. Just as you know that Christmas is approaching we can know that Jesus is coming. Christmas, after all, is the celebration of Jesus first coming. Jeremiah and the other prophets looked for hundreds of years for the arrival of the Messiah. We have already waited thousands for Jesus’ return. But just as surely as he came a first time, he will come a second.
So be ready. Keep your lives focused on God. Don’t let the worries of this world distract you from your real purpose. Keep on the watch knowing that Jesus will return just as he said. And always be about the task of giving God’s gift of love.
Learn this lesson from the Christmas season. When you see the Christmas decorations go up in the shop and streets, you know that Christmas is near. Know also that Jesus is near.
|Nov 29, 2015||On the 1st Day of Advent My Savior Gave to Me: A Parable on a Fig Tree||Listen||Download|