Joy to the World! The Lord Has Come

Although he only caught a quick glimpse and hadn’t seen her since that beautiful sun drenched autumn afternoon, he couldn’t get the young woman out of his mind. In his entire eighty two years of living on this planet, nobody had even come close to making such a delightful impression on the old widower. And no one, including the man himself, would ever have imagined he would be wishing he could have had a brief conversation with this total stranger.


He had been slowly driving down the hill on his way out of the senior citizen living facility in which he lived when another car approached from the opposite direction. As the cars passed he saw the other was being driven by a pleasant looking brunette who appeared to be in her early forties. She momentarily looked at him through the open window on the driver’s side, briefly locked her eyes on his, and then gave the old man the warmest, most mischievous smile he had ever seen, before continuing on their separate ways.


The impression she made on him was awesome. The man intuitively knew he would be able to be completely transparent during a conversation. The closest you could come to describing what he was experiencing was the way he was whenever he was in the company of his mother in the earliest period of his life. His mom had taken care of him since the day he was born. Her love for him could best be described as being an unconditional self-denying love. He remembered those occasions when she picked him up and cuddled him in her arms or sat him on her lap and soothed him whenever he was frightened or had fallen and hurt himself. She tried her best to see that each of his needs were met, and now, all these many years later, the old man fondly recalled how much he missed being in that good woman’s company.


As soon as he learned to talk, his mom was the only person he looked forward to sharing his every fear and each of his fondest hopes with. But gradually, he became somewhat hesitant of being so open with her. It wasn’t as though his love for his mom lessened, because nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that, in the course of time, he came to the realization that it would be wise if he wasn’t “too open” with her.


In other words, as a young boy he gradually became uneasy as to how his mom might react if she knew each and every thought that was flowing through his young mind. He became cautious as to what he shared with her. He didn’t like being scolded, and so he decided it would be wise if he didn’t share everything with her.


Now, many years later, as inexplicable as it may seem, that moment the old man looked into the eyes of the young woman and saw that impish smile; he had a powerful impression that convinced him he could always allow himself to be completely transparent if he ever had the pleasure of having a conversation with her. He somehow knew that she was someone he could trust with his innermost thoughts just as he once was able to do with his beloved mom.


But now here he was longing to have a brief conversation with this total stranger; a person he never even met, and whom he believed with all his heart would have the same eagerness to be just as transparent with him about herself. As he pondered that possibility, the old man became convinced that such a relationship would only be possible if he died and went to Heaven. There, total strangers who had finally been conformed into the image of Jesus would be completely relaxed in each other’s company, enjoying the serenity that always accompanies trusting one another completely and delighting in being their true Christ-like selves. And then he put her out of his mind and focused on the things he had to do that day.


A few months later he found himself sitting alone in the early evening sipping a Diet Pepsi in the food court of a shopping mall and enjoying fond memories of Christmas’s past. It was Christmas Eve and the place was packed with last minute stressed-out shoppers relaxing a bit before continuing on their mission. The old man’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a woman hollering, “Call 911, call 911! Please hurry!” An equally frantic man’s voice shouted, “Stand back! Give her some breathing room!” The old man got up from the table, and, along with some other shoppers, made his way towards the commotion, never suspecting he was about to receive the shock of his life.


A crowd of people had formed a circle and were looking down at a very old ashen faced lady who had fallen out of her wheelchair and onto the floor. She was lying there clutching her chest and obviously laboring to breath. But that sight wasn’t what shocked the old man. After all, when you have lived as long as he had you probably would have witnessed similar incidents more often that you care to remember.


Expressions of concern, helplessness, sympathy, and, sad to say, even total indifference, were clearly evident on the faces of the onlookers. But it was the facial expression of one particular onlooker that stood out from the rest: the unmistakable captivating warm smile of the same young woman he had only caught a quick glimpse of a few months earlier. He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing and his heart sank into the pit of his stomach and left the old man with a sickening feeling of total revulsion.


Finally, a woman shopper announcing she was a doctor broke through the crowd, knelt down next to the old lady, and in a moment or so said softly, “She’s gone. There’s nothing anyone can do.” It was almost as though that was the cue for the smiling young woman to turn around and quickly walk away headed in the direction of the dumb-struck old man. She seemed so happy and buoyant in her steps that it was almost as though she had just been reunited with a long lost friend. As she passed the old man, she broadened that familiar smile, gently squeezed his forearm and silently continued on her way.


It seemed as though her touch shook giant cataracts from the old man’s eyes and enabled him to see clearer than he had in his entire life. Walking away from him and obviously unseen by the other shoppers were a dozen or so equally overjoyed people, closely following the young woman who was leading the way and holding the hand of the smiling old lady who had just been pronounced dead. The two of them waived to him with playful grins on their faces, and then the whole crew suddenly vanished out of the old man’s sight.


Needless to say his mind was racing every which way as he sat later that evening in his rocking chair back home in his apartment on that unforgettable Christmas Eve. There were no visions of sugar plums dancing in his head. Instead, as he was about to doze off, the old man suddenly envisioned that happy little group led by the young woman being welcomed into God’s Heaven. Never in his wildest imagination had he ever come close to what he was seeing and hearing. For instance, although everyone was incredibly happy, it was quite obvious that some of Heaven’s inhabitants possessed a much deeper and more intense degree of joy than the others.


One such person caught his eye, and although the old man was alone sitting in his rocker, he couldn’t resist pointing his finger at the happy person. In a split second a horrific scene of seemingly never ending suffering taking place in the persons past life on earth jumped up and flashed before the old man’s eyes much like an image pops up whenever a curser goes over a certain area on a computer monitor. And whenever the old man stopped pointing his finger the image disappeared as suddenly as it had materialized.


As he thought about the intense prolonged suffering and sorrow he had just witnessed and compared it with the persons obviously indescribable joy in Heaven, the contrast was as stark as black and white. And whenever the old man compared the intensity of happiness of some folks with that of others in Heaven, he couldn’t help but wonder the reason for the difference.


Although he much preferred watching the joyful scenes in Heaven than those sad ones on Earth, his curiosity got the better of him and he pointed his finger at certain people again, and again, and again. The result was always the same. The intensity of joy a person was capable of experiencing in Heaven seemed to be in direct proportion to his or her heart felt desire and sincere struggle to somehow glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the divinely ordained physical and emotional suffering that accompanied their earthly ordeal; anguish which was no more possible for them to escape from, than their own shadow on a sunny day in the middle of a desert.


The old man continued pointing his finger at certain people in Heaven. The result was always the same. He went back further and further in the person’s life, even to the moment when he or she was conceived in their mother’s womb. But he didn’t stop there. Instead he continued generation after generation until he eventually passed out of time altogether, and entered into the other side of eternity before God created the world.


From that vantage point the old man was able to look ahead, back into time and witness creation, including the beautiful birth and then the horrible death of the entire human race by a fallen angel called the Devil. But he was also able to see that terrible tragedy wasn’t the end of the perfect eternal plan of the Lord who works out everything according to the purpose of His own sovereign will, and that part of His eternal plan always included creating a race of people in His Son exclusively for Himself.


Now he clearly understood that it isn’t a matter of God looking down at the old dead race of people and then capriciously saving some folks by plucking them out of that dung-heap of humanity, while leaving others to wallow in it, and then reforming those He saved, because nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, it was God’s supernatural ongoing planned creation of a new race of spiritual people, a people in whom the very Spirit of the Living God Himself would dwell, and which could only be produced by means of a spiritual rebirth.


In other words, back in eternity past, our Sovereign God planned on creating a very special race of people. And just as He had planned on taking some, not all, but some of the dust from the ground to form the first man, He also planned on using some, not all, but some of the folks from the spiritually dead race of people to create new creatures in Christ. Those formerly dead people had been brought into being for this very purpose every bit as much as that particular dust had been brought into existence to form the first human.


The old man could now see clearly that every Christian has been set apart by God from the moment of their birth for a specific purpose. And it didn’t matter when the Christian became aware of that fact. He remembered that in the great Apostle Paul’s case, it wasn’t until many years after Paul had been born that God called him, and only at that time did He reveal His Son to him, in order that Paul might preach Jesus among the gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16). And so it continues to this day, with all those folks who have been chosen in Him, from before the foundation of His world (Eph. 1:4).


The man’s memory had been jogged and he remembered how the old 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith briefly summed it up: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And often the means God uses to achieve this end is to allow some of His most precious children to glorify Him by first inclining them to desire, and then enabling them to endure their divinely ordained ordeal in a Christ honoring manner.


The old man learned on that memorable Christmas Eve that although it was light years away from anyone even coming close to experiencing the intensity of suffering Christ endured on His Cross, their own suffering enabled them to have an intense appreciation for the magnitude of His love for His people. God had eternally planned on using their suffering to prepare them to experience what the Apostle Paul referred to as being “an eternal weight of glory,” (2 Cor. 4:17). In other words, God was using the sufferings of these special children in order to prepare and enable them to be capable of rejoicing in the Lord Jesus forever, in a way the rest of His children can’t.


As for God’s other children; the old man now understood that they also were filled with incredible joy to their fullest capacity. They simply didn’t know what they were missing out on anymore than a person blind or deaf from birth can possibly have an appreciation for looking at a beautiful sunrise or listening to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.


In other words, these Christians were also just as happy as they could possibly be. And all because, when the fullness of time had come, their Sovereign Lord sent forth His Son to redeem those whose names He had written in “The Book of Life,” every single one of those He had chosen in Christ to adopt as His children from before the foundation of His world (Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:4; II Thessalonians. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 17:8).


This isn’t to say that God doesn’t love every human being because nothing could be further from the truth. There is absolutely nothing from preventing any sinner from fleeing to the Savior and accepting the gift of forgiveness for his or her sins. I know that’s difficult to understand. I have to echo the Great Apostle Paul’s thoughts:


Romans 11:33-36 (AMP) 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts, or who has [ever] been His counselor? 35 Or who has first given God anything that he might be paid back or that he could claim a recompense [reward]? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever! Amen (so be it).


No sooner had these wonderful truths sunk into his mind and heart than a cramp gripped the old man’s foot causing it to produce sharp pain. The old man bolted out of his rocking chair and started hopping all over the place. And when he looked at his clock and saw that it was ten o’clock on Christmas Morning, then, despite being in pain, he hopped happily right out the his apartment door. One by one, the other apartment doors flung open and his neighbors saw a sight they would long remember; the old man was doing a jig while he shouted: “Joy to the world! The Lord has come.” What no one saw however was a pleasant looking young woman with brunette hair brandishing the warmest, most impish smile he had ever seen slowly walking towards the end of the hall and then continuing straight through the wall and out of the building.

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December 4, 2011 Posted by Categories: Stories 13 comments

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