First Sunday in Advent November 29, 1998
68, 45, 72, 62
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning—I say, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Here ends our text.
In the Name of our Coming Savior King, the Child of Bethlehem, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,
Have you received any invitations lately? My guess is you probably have. Invitations to parties and dinners and special events abound during this holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Perhaps you’ve been invited to an office party where you work. You’ll probably receive several invitations to share a holiday meal at the homes of friends or relatives. The school has a Christmas program, as does the church, and various community groups. You’re invited to all of them. Some of these invitations you’ll accept and some, sadly, you’ll have to decline. After all, there are only so many events you can attend between Thanksgiving and New Year!
There’s one invitation, though, that you simply can’t afford to turn down. It comes from Jesus Christ, the Child of Bethlehem Himself, and it’s addressed specifically to you. It’s the invitation to once again find Christ in Christmas, and to make Him the very center of this joyful season. During the first three weeks of Advent this year, we’ll concentrate on three special ways that the Bible invites us to draw closer to the Christchild. Today’s theme is—
Have you ever stayed up waiting and watching for a guest who was coming to your house? It’s not always easy, especially if you’re not sure exactly when they’re supposed to arrive. A couple of years ago, my father and brothers drove to my home in South Dakota for deer hunting. I stayed up watching eagerly for their arrival. By about midnight, though, I was getting sleepy. And when they finally did arrive—at 5:00 in the morning—I missed it. By that time I was sound asleep on the couch.
Again this Christmas season, our Lord Jesus invites people to watch for His arrival, and welcome Him eagerly into their hearts. Unfortunately, most of the people around us are going to miss Him, because they’ve already nodded off! They’re asleep on their feet as they go about their Christmas shopping. Asleep as they hang ornaments from their Christmas trees. They’re sleeping—not physically, but spiritually. Because they don’t really know what Christmas is all about. “It’s a time of sharing,” the TV announcer says in a syrupy-sweet voice, “a time of peace; a time of family togetherness.” But with no mention of Jesus—how empty and hollow it all sounds!
Our text says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning—I say, more than those who watch for the morning.” The Psalmist was waiting for Christmas, too! The real Christmas—the coming of the Lord, the promised Messiah. He wasn’t asleep. He was as wide awake as “those who watch for the morning.”
Have you ever “watched for the morning”? Have you ever sat up through the night with someone who was sick, waiting for the morning to come? Or have you ever been on a trip, driving all night long, and waited for the sun to come up in the east? It can seem like an eternity. But one thing you can always be absolutely certain of is the fact that the morning will come! That’s the certainty that the writer of this text had. The Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem was still a long way off; just as Balaam prophesied in the book of Numbers: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.”—Num 24:17. Though He was yet a long ways off, the Psalmist knew that his Savior was on His way, just as surely as morning follows night. And that’s why he watched with confidence. It was a confidence based on God’s Word, and God’s Word cannot fail!
That’s the same confidence that we are invited to have during this Advent season. We, too, can watch with absolute confidence. We Christians know that, as surely as December 25th is coming, our Savior is on His way. Our Redeemer is coming into our hearts again, to strengthen our faith with true Christmas joy.
The Psalmist also watched for the coming of the Lord with desire. He could hardly wait for that first Christmas to come, even though it was still 600 years away! He said, “My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.” He was probably thinking of the guards who patrolled the walls of Jerusalem during the dark hours of the night. We can imagine the lonely soldier, cold and tired. Pacing up and down the length of the wall—watching, waiting, longing for morning to finally come!
Are you watching for Christmas that way? Longing for the Christchild to come? Children often can’t wait for Christmas to get here—to bring them the presents they’ve been hoping for. But we long for Christmas to come in a different way. We do look forward to the giving and sharing of the holiday season. We do look forward to getting together with our relatives and loved ones. But the heart of our desire for Christmas is Christ. We join with the prophet Isaiah, who cried, “With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early.” Isaiah 26:9. Jesus is the gift we are seeking during this happy time. As the days grow shorter, and the Christmas lights appear around town, the Baby of Bethlehem is the Relative we’re most looking forward to meeting!
The holy writer wasn’t vague about the reason He was watching, either. He said, “O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” He felt the desperate need for redemption.
That need for a Savior exists today, too, in 1997. In fact, our world needs Him now more than ever before! Most people don’t know that, of course. Because, as I said, most of the people around us are asleep. They’re covered with drowsy complacency in their sinful lifestyles. Sleepwalking their way to eternal destruction! But there’s something that keeps us Christians awake and watching. Something that just won’t let us sleep. We know our need for a Savior! We feel the crushing burden of our sins. We cry out with David, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor is there any health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” Psalm 38:3-4.
That’s why we’re watching for Christmas. Because the coming of Jesus means sweet relief from all our sins. In this, we can relate to the feelings of a condemned prisoner on death row. As the time of his execution comes closer and closer, he watches at the door of his cell, waiting for any news of pardon—any hope of release. We are watching for the coming of Jesus, who brings with him pardon for all our iniquities, release from eternal condemnation. In the 102nd Psalm we read: “This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD. [That’s speaking of us!] For God looked down from the height of His sanctuary; From heaven the LORD viewed the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoner, To release those appointed to death.” And now we must leave Christmas and go to Good Friday. Because for this release, we look not to the Baby in a manger, but to the full-grown Man on a Roman cross. There on that cross Jesus paid for all of your sins, and for all of mine. There He defeated Satan—our arch-jailer—once and for all, taking from him the dark power he had over our souls. That’s why we’re watching for Christ so eagerly again this year. Because just as the condemned man watches in his prison cell, we know that the Savior who comes into our hearts again at this season is carrying in His hand the precious pardon that gives us eternal life!
This Advent, we are invited to “watch”. To watch with confidence, to watch with desire, and to watch for redemption. Let’s be wide awake to the coming of Savior this year. When you’re out doing your shopping and hear the Muzak playing “Joy to the World,” remember Who it is who really brings us that joy, and give thanks to Lord. In the midst of the world’s godless celebration, let’s you and I keep that good watch, and remind ourselves again that the first word in Christmas—is Christ! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
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