Christmas in Light of Eternity

Yesterday I received news that a beloved member of my extended family, my aunt Debbie, passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. My heart aches for my uncle, for my cousins, and for all who loved her dearly. It’s not what we expected.

Unmet Expectations

The unexpected loss of my aunt stands out even more against the backdrop of what we expect this time of year to feel like. We expect joy, festivity, and merry-making. We don’t like unexpected heartbreak, especially during the holiday season.

The truth be known, unmet expectations plagues many a Christmas gathering. You may expect that perfect gift, or that perfect someone, or that perfect family tradition, or that perfect treat, or that perfect home decor to satisfy you. But it can’t, at least not for more than a few fleeting moments. This transient life was never meant to satisfy you. Whatever ideal you have in your mind of what Christmas should bring, I’d like to suggest to you this Christmas that you change your expectations. Instead of expecting Christmas to satisfy you in ways it never can, let the passing pleasures of Christmas turn your longing heart to behold the eternal love of God.

Eternal Love

The center of this celebration, Jesus, is Himself eternal. All who repent of their sins and place their faith in Him alone for salvation can know for sure they will spend eternity with Him. My aunt Debbie professed faith in Christ. While we grieve, we do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Because Jesus is eternal, Aunt Debbie can live forever.

We find the theme of eternal love in the Psalms. God repeatedly reassures believers of His eternally steadfast love, His covenant commitment to them. And because God’s love is eternal, His covenant love still applies to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Psalm 89 reminds us nine times that the love of God endures “forever.” Other passages repeat the theme:

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:5

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 117:2

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever…”
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 118:1-4, 29

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

And, if those passages weren’t enough, Psalm 136 repeats the phrase “His steadfast love endures forevertwenty-six times! It is called an antiphonal song, designed so the congregation can repeat the same phrase in response to truths proclaimed by the worship leader. In light of the wonderful acts of God, we affirm over and over again “His steadfast love endures forever.

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Great Expectations

I can expect, in joy mixed with sorrow, that someday I will see my aunt Debbie. I hope you approach this Christmas with radical, hope-filled expectations of what Christmas can bring. In Jesus Christ, Christmas brings hope in our sorrow, joy in our sadness, solace in our suffering, grace in our weakness. And it will last forever, because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Merry Christmas!

C.P.

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