The Day After Christmas

The presents have all been opened and the tree is taken down. All the lights are stored away and all the joyous music fades into the cold winter. The parties are over and its back to work we go. The laughter and the excitement of the season has come to a sudden end. Christmas is the most joyous time of year, but what do we do when Christmas is over? There are moments of unexplainable joy that we encounter in life. The birth of a new baby, the victory of our favorite team, a beautiful wedding, a new job, a fresh start; all are moments of joy. However, then the next day comes. Reality sets in and life goes on. For the unbeliever, the day after Christmas may be depressing. However, the day after Christmas for the believer is just the beginning of a life of abundant joy and a hope for the future.

                The Gospel of Mark skips over the birth of Christ that Matthew and Luke describe and goes directly to the time of Jesus’ baptism. After his baptism, Mark takes us to Jesus preaching in Galilee. In verse 15 of Mark 1 we read: “And saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel.” This may seem like a simple statement and a scripture passage that is easy to overlook. However, what Jesus says here is full of rich and glorious truths that changes the course of history.

                The time is fulfilled. The Jewish people long hoped and searched for the Messiah that was to come. As they found themselves under the heavy hand of Roman occupation, they made the assumption that the Messiah would come to lead a revolt and overthrow the Romans and establish God’s kingdom on earth. However, they missed the mark. They misunderstood the prophets of old and did not understand the true purpose of the Messiah. They missed the fact that before the Messiah would come as a victorious king, He would first come as a suffering servant who would die for the sins of the world.

                God is a God of perfect timing. Jesus did not come a moment too soon or a moment too late. He came at just the right time. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But then the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” God sent Jesus to the world at just the right time to free those living under the law (the Jews) so that the Gospel can made available to all mankind and the opportunity given that we may be adopted into God’s family. The fullness of time was come. Consider the backdrop of the Christmas story. “The Jews were coming under the dominion and taxation of a foreign power. Strangers were beginning to rule over them. They had no longer an independent government of their own. The “due time” had come for the promised Messiah to appear. Augustus taxes “the world,” and at once Christ is born. “It was a time perfectly suited for the introduction of the gospel. The whole civilized earth was at length governed by one master (Daniel 2:40). There was nothing to prevent the preacher of a new faith going from city to city and country to country. The princes and priests of the non-Jewish world had been weighed in the balances and found lacking. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome had all successively proven that “the world through its wisdom did not know God” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Even with all their mighty conquerors, poets, historians, architects, and philosophers, the kingdoms of the world were full of dark idolatry. It was, indeed, “due time” for God to interpose from heaven and send down an almighty Savior. It was “due time” for Christ to be born (Romans 5:6).”[1]

                Not only was the timing of the birth of Christ perfect, but so was the timing of His earthly ministry. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, was assigned the task of preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry. The timing was perfect for Jesus to be baptized, signifying the start of His ministry. The timing was also perfect in the lives of the disciples that Jesus called to follow Him. Jesus said the time is fulfilled. The time had come for Him to go to work and launch His earthly ministry.

                This serves as a reminder to us that God’s way is always the best way, and His timing is perfect. Whatever sorrow you feel the day after Christmas, there is a joy available to you beyond description. It is the joy of knowing Jesus and living a life of abundant joy with Him for all of eternity. There is no need to be sorrowful for the day after Christmas is just the beginning. The time has come.

                The Kingdom of God is at hand. When Jesus said the kingdom of God was at hand, the Jews did not fully understand. They were looking for the Messiah to come and establish the kingdom on earth. Such a kingdom will come one day but this not what Jesus was talking about. He said the kingdom of God was at hand as a declaration that He is the Messiah. Everywhere Jesus is, there is the kingdom. He is the kingdom of God. He had come to earth to gather unto Himself anyone who would come to Him and be a citizen of His kingdom. Ephesians 2:19 says, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” How do we become a citizen of the kingdom of God? Through faith in the Lord Jesus. The moment we trust in Jesus as our Savior we are immediately birthed into the family of God and are given citizenship in His kingdom. Therefore, we are no longer citizens of this world, but we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. The Bible also teaches us that Christ lives within us through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the kingdom of God is within us. So, we too can say that the kingdom of God is at hand because everywhere we are the kingdom is. We are ambassadors of the kingdom to this world. Therefore, we are the kingdom. When people of this world engage with us, they are engaging with a representative of God’s kingdom! We cannot do our work as ambassadors if we simply stay in the joys of Christmas. The day after Christmas brings tremendous opportunity to serve our King as His special ambassadors to this world with the purpose of bringing others into the kingdom. Therefore, don’t be sad when Christmas is over, but rejoice for we wear the badge of Jesus Christ Himself. We serve under His banner and not under some earthly kingdom. We are called by His name to be His kingdom representatives today. The kingdom of God is at hand!

                Repent ye. Repentance is one of the most intriguing and often confusing doctrine in the Bible. There is much debate over whether or not repentance is a requirement for salvation. This comes from what I believe is a lack of proper understanding concerning repentance. The word ‘repent’ or some form of the word is used 66 times throughout the New Testament. Each time it is used it falls under one of three categories: repentance of the nation of Israel, repentance in a general sense, and repentance of believers. The word ‘repent’ basically means a ‘change of mind’ or a ‘change of direction.’ There are many passages relating to salvation that mentions that salvation comes only by believing in the Lord Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith. We are hard pressed to find a passage of which we are 100% positive that it is a reference to the salvation of a lost soul that attaches the word ‘repent or repentance.’ It also seems a bit contradictory to tell someone they must ‘turn from their sin’ in order to be saved. Would this not be a work on our part to earn God’s favor? Yet, we know we are not saved by works or by any action on our part other than by accepting God’s gift of grace by faith. I must confess that I still have much to learn and the struggle with the thought of ‘turning from sin’ in order to be saved is hard to let go of especially for someone who has been taught that all his life. However, the more I examine the scripture the harder it is to find ‘turning from sin’ as a requirement for salvation. Therefore, I have come to a personal conclusion concerning repentance. I believe there are two types of repentance. There is a repentance unto salvation and a repentance unto holiness or righteousness. In order for one to be saved he or she must turn to Jesus. They must change their mind (repent) concerning Jesus and trust in Him completely. This is not a turning away from sin for Jesus paid the price of sin on the cross, therefore, to be saved one must simply turn to Jesus and go to the cross. When Jesus said in Mark 1:15 to repent, He did not say to repent of sin. He was saying to turn to Him. He was inviting us to follow Him. In the next few verses, we see Jesus calling Simon and Andrew to follow Him and be His disciples. They were called to drop their nets and turn to Jesus. They left what they were doing and turned to Jesus. This is not a ‘turning from sin’ in order to be saved. Is fishing sinful? Is mending nets a sin? No. This was a change of mind and a change of direction. It is leaving self and following Jesus. It is a call to ‘turn to’ Jesus. However, once one does turn to Jesus and follow Him, there is a requirement placed upon the believer to repent of sin in order to be fruitful in their walk with God. So, yes, the believer is called to turn from sin in order to live a holy life and be fruitful as a Christian. The unbeliever is called to turn to Jesus who alone can take away our sin problem. You see, we do not have to clean ourselves up to be saved. We just need to come to Jesus and He will clean us up. Therefore, now that Christmas is over, and Christ has come it is time for us to turn to Him and follow Him. It is time that we as believers turn from our sin, yes, and live our lives for Him. Christmas is not the end; it is just the beginning of an abundant life with Christ.

                Believe the Gospel. The Gospel is the Good News. The unbeliever must turn to Jesus and believe that Gospel to be saved. The believer must to turn from their sin and continue in the Gospel. You see, the Gospel did not end at the manger in Bethlehem or even at the empty tomb. The Gospel is not something we graduate from. It is something we continue in. The Gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses the whole of scripture. The entire Bible is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as believers living after Christmas, we do not put the Gospel away on a shelf. We go deeper into the Gospel. We embrace the Gospel daily and we live out the Gospel for others to see.

                After Christmas, now that Jesus has come; the unbeliever is called to turn to Jesus and believe in order to be saved from the penalty of sin and be given a home in Heaven. The believer, on the other hand, is called to continue in the Gospel, repent of sin, and be the kingdom of God to this world. We cannot be good kingdom ambassadors without repentance and without going deeper into the Gospel. Therefore, as the lights are stored away and the tress are taken down and the celebrations come to an end; there is a new light that shines, there is a new tree that is erected, and there is a new celebration started. The light that shines is the light of the Gospel shining brightly through every believer that lives a life of repentance and continuance in the Gospel. That light points the rest of the world to a tree on which Christ died to redeem mankind. Those who go to the tree and accept Jesus as their Savior will now join the kingdom and serve as ambassadors of the kingdom and will enter into a life of celebration that lasts for eternity!

[1] – adapted from JC Ryle

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