“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28, ESV)
Let’s talk about “Next Christmas”—but not the one 364 days from now. I want to talk to you about the next Advent, the second coming of Christ. Christmas, as we know, is a celebration of the first coming of Jesus. Humanity had waited a very long time for him to come, but come he did, and his life, death, and resurrection changed everything for us. And then he left—he ascended to the Father’s right hand in heaven, promising to come again!
And though I’m being a bit cute when I say “Next Christmas” (I know we don’t think of the second coming of Christ as a new version of Christmastime) on this day after Christmas, I think it would be good for us to consider the next time Jesus will come. Not everyone loves Christmastime. For some, it dredges up terrible memories of childhood abuses or hardships. For others, it reminds them of better times in their past. I don’t mean to bring up those memories, but I want to be a defender of those for whom Christmas is not all joy, cheer, and Christmas spirit. For some, it’s a season intermixed with hurts and sorrows.
But “Next Christmas”—the next coming of Christ—will be a joyful event for all of Jesus’ people. Young and old alike will rejoice at the coming of their King, the final and total end of sin and death, and the full dominance of Christ’s kingdom. If Christmas day is a happy occasion for you, you’ve had a glimpse of every day in Christ’s kingdom. It will be Christmastime all the time—the unfading joy of God’s presence.
“Next Christmas” Will Be Different
The above Bible verse (Hebrews 9:28) tells us that this “Next Christmas,” though there will be similarities, will be much different from Christmas as we know it. In both, Christ came and the kingdom of God advanced, but there will be differences.
A Different Purpose
One difference is the shift in purpose. Our text tells us that when Jesus came on the First Christmas, he came to bear the sins of many, to deal with sin (28). As we know, Jesus came the first time not to institute a warm holiday with beautiful traditions but to vanquish our great foe and obstacle to God. He came to deal with sin.
But when Jesus comes again, he will not come to deal with sin in that way. His second coming will be to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (28).
This terminology might be unsettling to some of you. We talk about trusting Christ, placing our faith in him and his gospel, and “being saved.” We might even ask, “Are you saved? Are they saved? Am I saved?” And the expectation is that those who have believed, those who are born again, are indeed saved. So how is it that Jesus’ second advent will be the moment he brings salvation? Hasn’t he already brought salvation?
The answer is that at his second coming, our salvation will be complete, come to fruition, and be our lived experience. Our salvation, like the kingdom of God, is already here, but not yet our full reality. As Paul said:
“From (heaven) we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)
Yes, in his first coming, Jesus bore the sins of many, but in his second coming, he will arrive to save his own.
A Different Connection
And the connection he will make with his people will be different at this “Next Christmas.” What I mean is that Christmas is a time to remember the incarnation, that God became one of us, like us. But if Jesus made himself like us in his first coming, in his second coming, he will make us like himself. As John wrote:
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
One of the glories of Christmastime is the truth that God knows our pain. He stepped into this mess and experienced our hurt for us and with us. His first coming didn’t automatically delete humanity’s pain—it still very much exists—but made a way to eventually escape our pain, to find a renewed world and creation. And at his next coming, Christ will put off all the terrible ramifications of sin and death.
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
So this “Next Christmas” will be entirely different in many ways from the first.
Eagerly Wait For “Next Christmas”
This Next Christmas is worth eagerly waiting for; we should greatly anticipate the Second Advent of Christ. And our text tells us that Jesus will save those who are eagerly waiting for him (28). This statement is not a condition—Jesus isn’t going to bring salvation to everyone whose personal excitement for him is at a specific level. This statement is a description—the author of Hebrews expects all legitimate Christians to crave his return and the full dominance of his kingdom that will come with him.
This eager waiting is a common attribute of New Testament Christianity. Paul said we await our Savior from heaven (Philippians 3:20). He also said we “wait for God’s Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). He spoke about those who have loved Christ’s appearing and are waiting for their blessed hope (2 Timothy 4:8, Titus 2:13). Peter said we are “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). Romans tells us that we who have the Spirit living in us are groaning with creating for our full adoption as God’s children, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). These are a small sampling of New Testament descriptions of our eager desire for Christ’s Next Christmas.
It’s not that we can’t enjoy life today—we can! You don’t have to be disgusted and tired of everything about life right now. It’s that all the things believers like about life today will be better and magnified in Christ’s kingdom. We like the beauty of relationships, creativity, and culture. We like love and joy and peace. We like goodness and kindness and friendship. We like ingenuity and righteous leadership and justice. All these elements will be found in perfection in Christ’s kingdom. So even if you aren’t looking to the sky for Christ’s arrival, if you are born again, you likely crave his coming, even if you don’t express it in so many words.
How To Wait For Next Christmas
But I do want to encourage you to set your hope on the next coming of Christ. We do not know which earthly Christmas will be our last. What if all of us knew we had just celebrated our last traditional Christmas and that Christ was about to return for us? How would you live this next year of your life? What changes would you make?
Those changes are part of eagerly waiting for him. We are to do more than emotionally anticipate this Next Christmas. We are to prepare for it.
I cannot imagine what yesterday would have been like had I not prepared for it. It took planning and work to get a Christmas tree, light up the house, and purchase gifts. If I had woken up yesterday morning without gifts wrapped and under the tree, the day would not have been all that great for me. Instead, because I prepared, I was ready to experience the day to the fullest.
And I hope we can carry this attitude into the second coming of Christ. I hope it isn’t a day that catches us empty-handed, but one where we’re satisfied with the way we spent our lives in preparation for Christ’s kingdom. Perhaps there are rhythms and routines we should change in anticipation of his coming kingdom. Just as we prepared for yesterday, so we should prepare for his return.
So what are some ways to wait well for this Next Christmas? Perhaps we can derive some ways to prepare for his coming by thinking about the ways we often prepare for Christmas:
1. Plan For It
One way we prepare for Christmastime is by planning. Many of us set aside money we will use to purchase gifts and decorations and ugly Christmas sweaters. Many of us create space in our garages for Christmas lights and ornaments for the tree. And many of us get out our calendars to plan various Christmas parties and traditions attached to the season.
We can do the same for Christ’s coming. We can plan lives that align with him and his values. We can strategically use our time and energy and resources for the things of God. Disciple-making takes discipline and planning, strategy and thought.
2. Share Christ
Another way we prepare for Christmastime is by saying “Merry Christmas” to people. Can you imagine saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to someone in June? It’s only because we are nearing Christmas that we begin saying such things.
So we should prepare for Christ’s coming by alerting people to the gospel. Look for strategic relationships whereby you can introduce Christ. Tell people what Jesus has done for and meant to you. See your work as a way to witness to his faithfulness. Be so thoroughly submitted to your King today that someone might wonder about your kingdom.
3. Worship And Prayer
Another way we prepare for Christmastime is by singing and listening to songs that are connected to this important season. If I never heard another rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” I would be a happy man, but I’m going to miss our true Christmas carols all year long. “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”—all these songs refresh us in the glory of Christmas and connect us to Christ’s beauty and majesty.
And we can prepare for this Next Christmas by singing and praying to our Lord. He is worthy, and we will realize his worth for all eternity. Singing to him with our whole mind, soul, and body will be part of our heavenly reality. So when we take time to energetically and passionately praise him today, we are tuning our hearts to his kingdom. Times of worship are important, and we must invest ourselves in this important activity.
4. Christian Community
Another way we prepare for Christmastime is by celebrating Christmas traditions with those we love. Our family takes a night to go to a local neighborhood called Candy Cane Lane together every Christmas season. We are far removed from the days when we were blown away by the decorations there—we’ve seen them all plenty. But it’s a great excuse for us to be with those who are important to us.
And in preparing for this Next Christmas, we should develop Christian community. I didn’t say “community with Christians.” Community with Christians looks very similar to community with anyone—the only difference is that the people present all tick the “Christian” box. But Christian community centers itself upon the gospel, engages in Christian practices like prayer or exhortation, and urges everyone in the community towards growth in Christ. I think too many of us have settled for versions of community where everyone shares the same views, but without any action. True Christian community, however, will change you.
5. With Patience
Another way we prepare for Christmas is with patience. You must wait to give and receive your presents. No one can make December 25th come any quicker. It comes when it comes.
So it is with our preparation for Christ’s return. We must patiently wait for his kingdom. Many of the things we want—peace, justice, righteousness—are coming with Christ. We get snippets of them today, but we must patiently wait for his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.