One quick thought, and then you can get back to your Christmas focus. I want to remind you of an important grammar point that is most important against the backdrop of this holiday.
Hope: it’s essential, for life. With it, you can tolerate and succeed against all opposition. Without it, you cannot continue another day. What oxygen is to the body, hope is to the soul. Hope is one of the foundation stones of the Christian worldview; it is a starring concept in the Christmas story.
Here is the Christmas conjugation of the verb to hope:
Past tense: He came. God’s promise of a Messiah was first declared in the Garden of Eden; His solution for sin would be the One who would someday come to destroy Satan and restore the relationship that was severed by Adam and Eve’s willful violation. Thousands of years passed… but God had not forgotten. The promised Messiah was born in Bethlehem; the details surrounding the epic event have been revisited in your hearing for days now, leading up to this moment. It’s history: He came.
Present tense: He comes. Across the Muslim Mideast, there is a recurring miracle that mirrors the angels with the shepherds, or the Magi with the star. Today, thousands of men and women raised and held captive by Islam have become followers of Jesus with an incredible common testimony: Jesus appeared to them in their dreams – for many, the visitation happened numerous times – pointing them toward a place or a person who would give them the truth about Him. My friend Tom Doyle – working as a missionary for nearly 20 years in the region with his wife, JoAnn – has captured vignettes of these people’s accounts in his book, Dreams and Visions. For these former Muslims, Jesus is more compelling than the unceasing call to prayer coming from their local mosque minaret: when Jesus appears, He calls them to Himself. He’s current: He comes, still.
Future tense: He’s coming. The First Coming was promised throughout the Old Testament. The Second Coming is promised across the New Testament. For Christians, Christmas is the First Advent; His return is the Second Advent. Another great term for that event: The Blessed Hope. It’s God’s way of punctuating history; it will be the Game-changer of game-changers. When He came (past tense), it was an arrival missed by everyone except the few in and around Bethlehem; when He Comes (future tense), every person on the planet will be aware of the awesome reality that will affect them – and, everyone – in an eternally significant way. He’s the Future: He’s coming.
There’s your grammar lesson for Christmas. Be the tutor for the folks around your table as you prepare to enjoy the festive meal and conversation. Help your family to be ultra-informed: Christmas is one installment of a continuing drama with past, present and future dimensions. We’re in the cast, along with the shepherds and Wise Men: don’t lose track of the next act! He’s coming back!