Foundation and Excerpts for my messages are from "The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised" by William Barclay
Luke 1:26-38 Sunday before Christmas Title, "But Then What."
"Delta Dawn, what's that flower you have on
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was a-meetin' you here today,
To take you to that mansion in the sky."
(Written by Alexander Harvey in 1971, sung by Bette Midler and then by Tanya Tucker.)
Delta Dawn is waiting....waiting for someone special. She wasn't about to miss him if he came to get her today - a promise made to her long ago. She'd been so ready, for such a long time, but then what? We've been getting prepared for Christmas for four weeks now. And we're ready for the most part - but ready for what? We're getting ready to celebrate the King's birth, our Savior, who came unto us; we're ready for a family get-together, an exchange of gifts and abundance of food, but then what?
The shepherds weren't ready to hear the praises of the angels. They were minding their own business, and suddenly, like a
thunderstorm in the rain forest, the angels appear with their message. The shepherds traveled to find the Christ child in surroundings they could identify with - but instead of a new calf, there was a baby in a feeding trough, amongst the straw, animal smells and all....but then what?
When I hear the birth of Christ as told through the scriptures this year, it will be the 58th time I will have heard this story. And then what? Next year will be the 59th?
There was first a book, then a movie about skipping Christmas. The idea is silly, don't you think? It'd be like saying, we've decided not to have another birthday, so we'll stay the same. But then what? We can listen to the story of Christ, the Messiah's birth through the scriptures, through our favorite hymns and carols. We can attend special Christmas open houses and view beautiful, delightful holiday lights. We send greetings of the season to family and friends, wishing them the peace of Christmas throughout the entire year. We give to the needy, and we eat and cook far too much food as we become thankful and appreciative for what we have, but then what?
Somewhere after the 50th time hearing the story of Christ's birth,"but then what?" became a constant question in my heart. Yes, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords was born to bring me new life. Yes, I prepared by heart for that celebration of his birth, and yes, I admit that I got caught up in the community's celebrations and events. But through questioning, "but then what?" God helped me to realize that being ready and waiting for its arrival is far more than re-living the birth celebration of Christ.
As Mary and Joseph learned from Gabriel the angel, God was coming unto them through Jesus. He was reaching out to them at a time when they least expected something like this to happen to them. And God is coming unto us, too. It's not enough to prepare your heart for the anniversary of the celebration of Christ's birthday; it's not enough to acknowledge that he is our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. It's just not enough.
Delta Dawn was ready. She was waiting for a promise to be fulfilled. But she forgot to live her life. She was so caught up in the promise that she couldn't see beyond that. Although our celebrations are meant to celebrate CHRIST'S MASS, our lives must go far beyond the celebration. We must live our lives with Christ in mind daily. We must take the awareness of Christ's promise that we hear at Christmas and combine it with the thankfulness, the caring for others, and love we are given and apply it to our daily lives.
And how can we prepare for the coming of Christ when he is already among us?
Look around you - do you see Christ? "Do you see Jesus my Lord? He's hear in plain view." He once was part of the ordinary world, walked among the common folk, worked at a trade, worshiped with his family. Did he not promise to come again, to save the world? Do we not prepare our hearts for his coming in the 11th hour? We don't know when he will return. When he decides to save the world, we may be like the shepherds who had no idea something special like this could happen.
(The poem, "Twas the Night Before Jesus Came," by Bethany Farms, Carrolton, IL 1993 is a wonderful poem of being prepared for the coming of Christ.)
Have you been asking, "but then what?" Don't get caught off-guard. You have a chance right this very minute to acknowledge to God that you want to be prepared for his coming. If you believe that Christ was born to us to save you from your natural-born sinful nature, accept God's promise for eternal life, right now. Invite him into your heart.
Or, you could decide that you've heard the promises of Jesus Christ, but like Delta Dawn, you want to hold firm to that promise and wait to see if it is delivered.
Or you could acknowledge to the world that celebrating Christ's birth is a reinforcement of accepting his promise, living his word, walking in his footsteps, and preparing the way for his second coming.
Who knows? This could be the day. Don't get caught without holding to that steadfast promise, because then what?