"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 7, 2011
First of all, I want to say "Happy Birthday" to my sweetheart, Jon, who will be celebrating his birthday on Saturday.
For many, this is probably the busiest month of the year. But in spite of the colder weather, December and all things associated with Christmas is one of my favorite holiday seasons. I enjoy listening to Christmas music. I like Christmas trees and all the lights; and especially enjoy turning all our living room lights off in the evenings and only having the tree lights on (well, generally the TV is on too!). I like watching Christmas movies. I like giving and receiving gifts and trying to find the perfect presents; although my shopping list has shortened over the past few years, because Jon and I mainly just buy for one another. I like fudge and all the special treats reserved for Christmas. I like it when I receive Christmas cards in the mail. I like trying to guess what Jon is going to get me (although he tends to shop last minute and doesn't have anything under the tree for me until the last day or so) and like trying to figure out what he puts in my Christmas stocking that's hung on the fireplace. I enjoy buying little surprises to put in Jon's stocking and trying to find that perfect gift that will surprise him, which is not an easy task since his birthday is two weeks before Christmas and he's not real easy to shop for!
The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with excitement and anticipation. But then before you know it, Christmas is over with for another year. It's always kind of a let-down for me when it's over and I have to take my tree down and store the decorations and put my Christmas music CD's away. I'm never quite ready for the holiday to end, knowing that I have to wait a whole year before it rolls around again.
There are times when I drive Jon nuts. Imagine that! He can mention that he'd like to go to a particular destination on vacation someday and I'll immediately begin looking up information and see what all is available. I'll look up what there is to do, lodging choices, routes to take to get there, etc. Jon can mention that in a couple years we'll have to purchase a new car, and I'll start thinking about that and look up information on various vehicles. Jon brings up the subject of someday building our own home, and I'll drag out the house-plan books we have and start looking through those -- again. When I do those things, it used to cause Jon anxiety because he thought that I thought that he meant we were going to do those things right now. I've explained over and over, and I'm not sure he really understands, but he's getting a better insight on me. I enjoy planning and dreaming and thinking about things we want to do or buy someday. I know when he brings something up that it's not set in stone and he's not making any promises. I know that he's not intending on it happening the next day, or next week, or possibly not even the next year or so. But I find enjoyment in daydreaming and looking up information for whatever it is that Jon mentions he'd like us to do -- someday.
For me, there are times when the anticipation is almost (not quite, but almost) as much fun as the actual activity. For instance, I enjoy the weeks and days leading up to Christmas. I have fun trying to come up with a surprise gift for Jon. I enjoy trying to figure out what Jon is going to get for me; although he's a last minute shopper most years, so I have nothing under the tree until right before Christmas (did I already mention that earlier??). I have fun and even get a little giddy sometimes during those last few days leading up to Christmas, and count down the days until it arrives.
I'm the same way when it comes to my birthday or our anniversary. I'm not one of those women who won't mention those occasions in hopes that Jon will remember, then disappointed if he happens to forget. I'll remind him over and over, because I'm excited about our anniversary or my birthday, so there's no chance that he'll not remember. The days leading up to those events are filled with anticipation, planning, and wondering how we're going to celebrate and looking forward to a special day with Jon. I'm the same way when it's Jon's birthday. I think most years I'm more excited about celebrating his birthday than he is. I want to make the day special for him. Growing up, birthdays were a big deal in my family. That was our day when each of us were made to feel special by our parents and sisters. And apparently, I've never grown away from enjoying having my special day once a year; and wanting Jon to have his.
I like the anticipation that any special occasion brings; whether it be Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, New Years, 4th of July, or any other holiday. I enjoy the anticipation of counting down to a vacation or special trip Jon and I take together. It's thrilling and exciting, not knowing for sure what all we're going to get to do or see.
Anticipation means: The action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction. In anticipation with the probability or expectation of something happening.
Anytime I'm anticipating a special date or holiday or occasion or trip, I have the expectation that something is going to take place. If I don't know that something is planned or going to take place, then I can't look forward to it or await its occurrence. It's only in those instances when I know something is going to happen, that I'm filled with excitement and anticipation. But once it takes place and is over with, then there is no longer any need for that anticipation and expectation. I may still be excited over what happened, but I no longer have to look forward to the event. It has become a memory.
The birth of Jesus was prophesied for hundreds of years before it finally occurred. Generation after generation were taught to look for the coming Messiah, and many were disappointed to not see it happen during their lifetime. But although millions of individuals heard about it and didn't see Jesus born while they were alive on earth, that didn't negate the promise or make it any less true. Men and women were taught by their parents to look for the promised Messiah, then they taught their children, who taught their children, on and on down through decades and centuries before God finally announced that it was time for Jesus to come to earth in the form of a baby. Finally, the day arrived and mankind no longer had to anticipate the arrival of the Savior, for He had come.
Before Jesus ascended back into heaven He made another promise to mankind: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 15:2, 3) 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 tells us: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:52 tells us that this will all take place "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye".
Actually, when Eve first sinned, God spoke to the serpent and promised that someday he would be crushed and utterly defeated by the seed of a woman. So even then, God had a plan of Satan's defeat and demise, and said that the defeat would come from a child born of a woman. God knew at that moment that He would send His Son to earth to defeat Satan and die for the sins of mankind. But the prophesy that spoke of a coming Messiah is found in Isaiah 53. Seven hundred years passed between the time of that prophesy and the fulfillment of it. But it came to pass.....
Over two thousand years have taken place between the time Jesus promised to come again and today. That promise has been talked about, read about in scripture and preach about in sermons. The message has been passed from one generation to the next, and millions once again have died without seeing the fulfillment of that prophesy being fulfilled. But that doesn't make it any less real or true. The day will come when once again the words can be said, "It came to pass...."
Titus 2:13 calls it our blessed hope. "Looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." In Paul's writings in Romans chapter 8 he puts it like this: "But hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."
Once something happens, we no longer need to wait for it and hope for it to occur. It has happened and is over with and we've seen it take place, so there's no longer a reason to hope for it. I can look forward to the arrival of Christmas and hope for that special day to hurry and come, but once December 25th gets here, I no longer need hope and no longer have to eagerly await it's arrival. Instead, I can enjoy the day and celebrate.
We can't mark the second coming of Christ on a calendar and mark off the days until His arrival. But we can have hope that one day during our lifetime, that trumpet will sound and those of us who are watching and waiting for His appearing will suddenly lose our gravitation and will be caught up in the clouds to start our eternity in heaven. Until that happens, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. We don't give up, we don't lose faith, we don't lose hope, and we don't lose focus; but we look and wait and hope to be caught away with Jesus at any moment.
Some may say, "But it's been promised over 2,000 years ago and still hasn't happened, so it's probably not going to happen in our lifetime." Or there may be those who have grown discouraged and lost hope. I have no idea if I will arrive in heaven by rapture or by death; but I do know that I will get there one way or the other. I think it would be the coolest thing ever to be the generation that gets raptured and I'm hoping that will happen during my lifetime, but I don't know whether or not that will occur. But we're 2,000 years closer to it happening! And I'm going to live my life as if it could happen. I have nothing to lose if it doesn't happen and everything to gain if it does. But we also need to make sure the upcoming generation knows the message about Jesus and His second coming. If it doesn't occur during our lifetime, it very well could occur for our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. They need to know to watch for His appearing and to have their hearts prepared to meet Christ.
Some days it's easy to want Jesus to return to get me out of a mess or because I'm tired of putting up with the things going on in our world or because it would be easier than dealing with the things I have to deal with. And some days it's easy to lose my focus and get my priorities out of order and become more excited about an upcoming trip or purchase than the thought of Jesus coming back again. But I never want to lose hope. I never want to lose faith and stop anticipating the arrival of the second coming of Jesus. I never want to forget about that promised place that Jesus is preparing for me.
May we each remember Jesus, that long-awaited promised Messiah, not only during this Christmas season but each day of our lives. May our hearts always be filled with anticipation and hope of His second coming. He's not coming back as a baby. The next time He comes there won't be a crucifixion and cross and resurrection. That work has already been done. The last time Jesus came to earth He ascended back to heaven by Himself. But the next time He comes He is coming for those who are watching and waiting for His appearing. He's not going to heaven alone, but taking each and every believer back with Him. And that folks should fill us all with overwhelming anticipation and expectation!
I've heard that one reason life on Earth isn't perfect is that if it was, we wouldn't have any need for Heaven. I think that's a huge exaggeration. What we think of as perfect here, is probably nothing compared to Heaven.
When He comes and brings us to join Him in the cloud, I wonder how many people will hesitate. They may want to finish the game they're playing. Or they might want to run back for their wedding ring. Maybe they will want to grab a Pepsi before they head out. Even if people don't stop for anything, they hesitate a little, wondering if they will miss their computer.
I hope that we will all jump up and run to see what our eternity has in store, instead of looking back at this life.
Praline Pecan Crunch
16 oz. Quaker Squares Cereal (brown sugar or cinnamon)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3 Tbsp. Vegetable oil spread (in sticks)
1/3 light corn syrup
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Heat oven to 250. Spray 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine cereal and pecans in pan; set aside. In a large microwavable bowl combine sugar, corn syrup and vegetable oil spread. Microwave on high for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave again for 30 seconds or until boiling. Stir vanilla and baking soda into mixture. Pour over cereal; stir to coat mixture evenly. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Spread on baking sheet and cool completely. Break into pieces.
We've all had those memory lapse moments from time to time; which the older folk often refer to as "senior moments". But you don't always have to be a "senior" to have them. Recently, I needed to color my hair so decided one morning while Jon was in the shower that I would apply the color to my hair, then it would be time to wash it out after Jon left for work. I mixed it up and started applying it to my hair, only to glance down and realize I hadn't put the plastic gloves on before starting. I ended up with brunette finger tips on my right hand!
The funniest story I've heard recently came from a minister acquaintance. A few days ago he was searching for his cell phone. He checked in his coat, on the kitchen counter, in his car when suddenly he found it. He had been speaking on his cell phone with a man from his church the entire time! [Resemblance to a recent 'Pickles' comic is purely coincidental.]
You can't even say Christmas without Christ.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon