dr-rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgThis time of the year, kids stop being naughty and start being nice, hoping Santa will bring toys. This is how, as kids we are conditioned, to wait for Santa Claus and so it goes throughout our lives.

As youths we wait for electronics; as teens we wait for clothes; as young adults, we wait for cars and engagement rings; as adults we wait for cash; as elders, we wait to hear from family and friends.

But this Christmas, let’s be sure we are ready and waiting for the right things.

What should we be ready and waiting’ for? We should be ready and waiting for Christ. Commercially many of us get caught up waiting to celebrate Christ’s birthday. But Advent really means the “Second Coming.” The question therefore becomes: “Are you ready and waiting on Christ or are you ready and waiting for Christmas?” In Matthew 24:42, Jesus warns us to be ready and waiting for Him: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Earlier in the same chapter, Christ taught about His Second Coming, not Christmas. It is this very discussion that has caused some religions not to even celebrate Christmas. But, watch out. Speculation regarding His Second Coming can be blasphemy. Because, in verse 32, He said, “Now we learn the lessons of the fig tree: as soon as its twigs get tender, you know summer is near.” So when one compares Matthew 24:32 with  24:42, it may seem contradictory.

As Christ spoke, many were confused by what He really meant, so when you add in Matthew 24:34, which is another quote from Christ, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass way until all these things happen,” the confusion heightens. Because it is generally believed that what Christ meant by all this was the Kingdom of God’s judgment was coming upon Jerusalem. For the siege and fall was meant to refer to the doom upon Jerusalem, which, in fact, did happen 40 years later, during the lifetime of some who were with Him at that moment.

Christ in Matthew 24:36-41 teaches three important truths. First, He tells us only God knows when the Second Coming will be. Second, He tells us it will come as a shock because many will be out Christmas-shopping, like many were in Noah’s day (Genesis 6:5) during the flood. They were eating and drinking and were caught completely off-guard and, therefore, swept away. Third, He tells us His Second Coming will be a time of separation and judgment. So He says in Matthew 24:44, “You must be ready.”

Wouldn’t it be great this Christmas, if we were ready and waiting for Jesus? Wouldn’t it be great this Christmas, if, instead of recklessly spending money, for those who can, to lovingly create your gifts or if we more thoughtfully bought and gave more practical gifts? Wouldn’t it be great this Christmas, if we, instead of being overcome by credit card bills paid cash, built an economic arc for future generations by buying Savings Bonds, open savings or investment accounts for them? Wouldn’t it be great this Christmas if we spent time with our loved ones instead of spending money on them?

The best and most affordable Christmas gifts we can give at Christmas are love and peace. Real love and peace come from our faith in God, because Christ alone embodies the characteristics of both. Love and peace, as gifts, are free!  Real love and real peace are more than the mere absence of conflict. During Christmas, love and peace can bring completeness in life, improved health, true justice, eternal prosperity and total protection.

When Christmas comes this year, we must be ready and waiting for the right thing. We must be ready and waiting to share genuine love and perfect peace as our Christmas gifts to one another, as our Savior did to us. We must be a people who haven’t been naughty but who have been nice, a people not waiting for Santa Claus but ready and waiting for Christ.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or e-mail the pastor at pastor@churchoftheopendoormiami.org.