Sermon: Is This All There Is?
Scripture: 2 Peter 3:8-15
Date: November 29, 2015
Well, the days are passing quickly. Just a few more weeks until Christmas, which leaves us with the question of the hour: Have you written your letter to Santa yet? Time is running out. Now I
always found that writing letters to Santa was not as easy as it sounded. You want to keep it brief, because this time of year Santa is a busy man. But yet you want to make it sound like more than just a list. And so you struggle to fit all of your fondest wishes into one short note without sounding too greedy. And you also have to find room to convince Santa that you’ve been good, especially if you suspect
that he might know better. So it is a tough task. The other day I ran across some notes to Santa that I thought I would share with you just in case you are struggling with your note.
Some notes are very practical.
Dear Santa, Please give me a doll this year. I would like her to
eat walk, do my homework and help me clean
my room. Thank you, Jenny
Sometimes we say too much in our notes.
Dear Santa, I wish you could leave a puzzle under
the tree for me. And a toy for my sister. Then she won’t want to play with my
toys and I can have them to myself. Merry Christmas, Cassie.
Some like to make it as easy on Santa as possible.
Dear Santa, You can send me one of everything. from the boys’ section of the toy catalog. But nothing from the girls’ section. I
can’t wait for Christmas to come. Kent
And then some have a real sense of urgency.
Dear Santa, Could you come early this year? I’ve been super good, but I don’t know if I can last much longer. Please hurry. Love, Jordan.
Adults look at the days left before Christmas and worry that we can’t get everything done, but children look at those days and worry that
Christmas will never come. I can remember as a child thinking that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was an eternity.
That it would never end. In fact, one year when I was about five or six years old, I got so impatient with waiting that I began to search the house for presents. I thought I was being so sneaky,
but Santa Claus found out. And he wrote me a note saying that he wouldn’t bring me anything unless I stopped peaking. It is so hard to wait.
The Jews had spent six centuries waiting for the Messiah, and how many of them did not recognize Him when he came and today their descendants continue to wait.
But for many, the waiting ended with the birth ofChrist, and in time they proclaimed Him Lord and Savior and Messiah. But it was not
too many years until they were back to waiting. Jesus’ earthly ministry was done. He had been crucified and then resurrected and
then He ascended, promising that He would return. Those first Christians expected that return to be very soon, within their lifetime.
And so they waited with great anticipation. But by 60 A.D. that first generation of Christians was beginning to die off and the anticipation
was beginning to turn to disappointment and despair. The Christians were beginning to lose hope and were asking, in the words of that old
Peggy Lee song, Is that all there is? Is that all there is to this Messiah? Is that all there is to the Kingdom of God? Is that all there is to this new faith? Because to them the world didn’t look too much different than it had before
Jesus had come. The Romans were still in power. The Temple was
still corrupt. And they were being persecuted for belief in a Messiah who was
seemingly not coming again, though he had promised to come. People mocked their faith. And false teachers come into the void and begin to place doubts in their minds. Where’s this Jesus you’re waiting for? Maybe he forgot about you Maybe God set all of this in motion and now
He has abandoned you. He is never coming.
And many Christians started to believe their words. One writer says: Like little children at Christmas time who get tired of being good, some of these early believers go back to their old ways of life.
Denise Stringer, in her book The Coming King,
Everyone who lives long enough experiences major disappointment,
and the struggle to recover from the loss involved. Perhaps a marriage has left you disillusioned Maybe parenting a particular
child has left you with guilt, fear, and a sense of inadequacy.
Possibly a vocational choice has proved mistaken or an employer has proved unreliable. In all of these and myriad other similar
circumstances, disappointment forces us to reassess our beliefs,
values, choices and direction. In the midst of such uncertainty we are
vulnerable to discouragement and loss of hope.
What about you? Are you approaching this Christmas with great disappointments and discouragements in your life? Has your hope waned? Are you beginning to doubt that Jesus will ever come to you?
Listen now to what the Apostle Peter had to say:
Read 2 Peter 3: 8-15
Peter wrote these words to those whose hope was nearly gone?
Whose faith in the Messiah was shaken? People who were discouraged and defeated. And I suspect as we approach this Christmas,
with daily news about war and terrorism, and a troubled economy mixing in with our personal struggles, I suspect that it is a
word that we need to hear. Because I have a suspicion that there
are many in our community who are looking to the
church and saying: Is this all there is? Is this all there is to Christmas? Is this all there is to say to our troubled world? Is this all there is to the Messiah whose birth we celebrate?
Peter’s words call us to a life of expectancy.
The same kind of expectancy that caused the shepherds to leave their flocks and run to Bethlehem. The same kind of expectancy that
struck such fear in King Herod that he tried to kill the Messiah before His world
changing wor had truly begun. The same kind of expectancy that brought wise men on that long journey to the manger. The same kind of expectancy that caused Simeon and Anna to wait for many years in the Temple until they could behold the Messiah. The same expectancy that made Angels sing and
stars to shine. The same expectancy that the Disciples felt as they watched
Jesus ascend into heaven with the promise that He would return ringing in their ears. Christmas is a time when the expectations of God
came to earth to dwell in our hearts forever. But by the time Peter wrote
these words, the church had lost that sense of expectancy. Phillips Brooks, the nineteenth century minister, who wrote
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”, once wrote:
The coming of the Lord has been the inspiration of the Christian world. The power of any life lies in its expectancy.
So what is it that we are expecting this Christmas?
A whirlwind of activity as we rush from event after event? Crowds of people
pushing us from all sides at the mall? Family tensions over where Christmas will be spent? Over eating? Over spending? Are we
expecting to meet Jesus this Christmas? Are we expecting the Messiah to come to us?
The power of our faith lies in the expectancy that the Messiah would come. In the days following Jesus’ ascension, the church lived in the expectancy of
Christ’s return and that expectancy ignited and empowered the church and
many were saved and the church spread to all parts of the known
world. But by the time Peter writes,the expectancy had
waned, and Paul and Peter have been imprisoned and the church had lost its
zeal and was content to just survive the persecutions of Rome. The people had already grown weary of waiting. And now 2000 years later we
approach another Christmas and still the Messiah has not returned.
Are we expecting Him this Christmas? Or will we awaken on December 26 and ask:
Is that all there is to Christmas?
Peter tells us that expectant people find power in viewing life through an eternal
perspective, not an earthly one. We can not place God on the world’s
time table. If you really are God, then act now.
Our hopelessness and discouragements arebased on worldly expectations. Ron Mehl, in his book The Tender Commandments tells of
counseling a young woman who came to him miserable and depressed.
She had tried to find meaning in the things that the world holds as so important,
and she had failed. She said:
I’ve lost my virginity. I’ve lost my sense of values. I’m twenty one years old,
and I’m just tired. I don’t want to live like this anymore I thought it was going to be
so good. But it’s not.
Mehl goes on to say that she is representative of so many who have made the mistake of living with an earthly perspective. She bought the lie of the “good life” that is promoted so successfully in our movies and magazines and commercials. She thought that the purpose of her life was to “grab all the gusto”
she could get. And at just twenty one, she is already tired and hurt and disillusioned. (She is tired of waiting). She is not alone.
There are many people in this world who have given up on achieving a full life.
They are afraid of relationships. They live as virtual loners. They’ve done it all – and have nothing left to show for their experience, except a bad case of disillusionment. Is this all there is, they ask of life?Look at life from an eternal perspective, Peter says. God does not work on our time table. For the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. And if it seems as though he is slow in keeping his promise to return, it is not for his benefit but
ours. He is patient with this world (even in the face of evil) because he wants to
give as much time as he can for everyone to come to repentance and salvation.
The longer He delays, the more chance humanity has to turn to Him.
That is the eternal perspective that leads to a life of expectancy.
This world is not allthere is, and He wants all to know that And so how do we
live life from an eternal perspective, rather than a worldly one.
First, by understanding that everything in this world will eventually perish. Everything we seek identity in will perish. Our homes. I saw on T.V.
the other night a story about a family who had bought their dream house. They paid $450,000 for it, but when they moved in they discovered
that it was infested with mold. The mold made them sick and they had to move
out. For several month they lived in tents in the back yard of their dream
house, while they tried to get rid of the mold,but nothing worked. And so they aske the fire department to burn it to the ground. And they started all over again. The things of the world are temporary. Our money. Our jobs. Our cars.
Our nice clothes. Our good looks. Our youth.
Even life on this earth is only temporary. These things will not bring lasting joy and peace and contentment. Only those
things which are eternal will bring those.
Bill Moyers did a documentary on death and dying in which he interviewed many persons who were terminally ill. And what he
discovered was that many of those he interviewed found greater meaning and beauty in life after learning they would die. He interviewed one man
who had lived four years longer then the doctor told him he would. And in that
time, he said, that he had learned to cherish every moment of life.
If you are told you will never see spring,again, and you live to see spring, then
spring takes on a whole new meaning.
The fact of the manger of Bethlehem, that God became human,focuses us on the mortality ofthis earthly life, while reaffirming that there is much beyond the
present moment in history and time. That there is eternity. That Jesus did not come to try and help us rearrange this earthly life so
we could find meaning somewhere in it, but He came to give us new life. And that for every earthly moment that Jesus lingers there are those who
will have the opportunity to live eternally with Him. And so Peter says we must
live every day as though it is th threshold of eternity for us and
for everyone around us. Since everything here today might well be
gone tomorrow, do you see ho essential it is to live a holy life?
Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt dow that day
– but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way,
ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness. The manger calls us to claim each
moment as an eternal moment and take time to nurture those relationships that matter most to us and Christ because our eternity will be
shaped by those who know God’s love because of our witness.
Lives become new when we live in the expectancy of new life given to us through God’s Son in a manger.
There is no greater gift we can receive, nogreater gift that we can share,
this Christmas then the gift of new life in Jesus Christ.
Have you come this morning, out of the discouragement and hopelessness of your life, seeking such a gift? You don’t have to wait any longer. Ask Jesus to make your life new. Or are there those in your family, or circle offriends,
or coworkers, who have never received that gift. Why not offer them Christ
this Christmas? And do so with great expectancy, that Christ will come and make their lives new.
There is no greater gift you can give then claiming this moment
and those lives for Jesus Christ.
Louis Pasteur was a great scientist and did much in the field of immunology. His efforts continue to save the lives of many every day. For many years, Pasteur worked on a vaccine for rabies. Finally he was ready to test it on humans and he decided that he would be the
first one to receive the vaccine. But just as he was about to begin experimenting on himself, a nine year old boy in his town, Joseph Meister, was bitten by a
rabid dog. And knowing the nature of Pasteur’s work, the boys mother came
and begged Pasteur to give her son the vaccine. Pasteur was reluctant to give an unteste vaccine to the boy,
but then he realized that without it the boy would die a horrible death. And so
for ten days, Pasteur injected the child with the vaccine – and the boy lived. Decades later after a life of accomplishments for humanity,
Pasteur was near death. And reflecting back on his incredible life, Pasteur
requested that only three words be put on his tombstone to
memorialize his life. They were:
Joseph Meister lived.
Our greatest legacy will be those who live eternally because Jesus lives in us. What are we expecting to happen this Christmas?