My daughter brought home an interesting craft one day when she was about 4. She had an empty toilet paper roll she'd colored and decorated with stickers. She held it up to her eye, scanned the sky and announced she was looking for Jesus.
"Jesus?" I asked.
"Yes," she said with absolute confidence. "He's coming back, and I'm watching for Him."
Her certainty humbled me. Of course I believe that Jesus is coming back, but I don't have my daughter's kind of faith. Not a faith that looks up at the sky to check. Not an expectancy that says today could be the day.
Yet expectancy is precisely what we should have. The Bible pulses with it. In the Old Testament, the Jews watched and prayed for a Savior who would come and make all things right, hoping He would come in their lifetime. In the New Testament, the early Christians lived with the firm conviction that Jesus would come again — any day.
But as the years go by, we lose the sense of immediacy. We still believe Jesus will return; we just don't expect Him now. We live as though life will go on indefinitely. And that is exactly what Jesus said we would do — we'll be about our business as usual and be caught off guard (see Luke 17).
One of the best ways to prepare for the future is to look at the past to see who was prepared to receive Jesus the last time He came. Ironically, most of those who studied the prophecies and searched the Scriptures missed the Messiah. Why? Because He didn't meet their expectations. They were too set in their ideas of what the Messiah should be to see who He really was.
Those who recognized Jesus as the Messiah weren't looking for a certain type of savior. They were merely watching — shepherds watching their sheep, wise men watching the stars, an old man and an old woman keeping watch in prayer. These were all very different people, yet each was blessed to see Jesus when He arrived.
The Christmas season provides a picture of expectancy unlike any other time of the year. Our emotions and resources are focused on one day, making sure our families are ready. How much more should we be preparing for Christ's return — for the day that is not just one out of 365, but one out of eternity?
Much of Advent focuses on Jesus' birth and can be extended beyond Christmas to keep us focused on His return.
Lighting Advent candles the four Sundays before Christmas is part of many families' celebrations. Consider lighting a candle every Sunday throughout the year in hopeful expectation of Jesus' return.
So many of the gifts we give to one another are lost, broken or put aside within a few months. Instead, invest in what will last for eternity — serving God and others.
Jesus told us to live in such a way that others would see our good works and praise our Father in heaven. Let the world see the beauty of your sacrificial love in action.
The last command Jesus gave was to share the Gospel. Which of your coworkers, friends and family members needs to hear about the love of Jesus?
Praising God redirects our attention from the temporary to the eternal like nothing else. Worship daily with eternity in mind.
We need the encouragement of other believers. The book of Hebrews warns us not to give up meeting together, especially as we see the Second Coming drawing nearer.
We should live with only two days in mind: today and that day of Christ's return. A focus like this will remind us to keep watch with hopeful expectation.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.