The people walking in darkness have seen a great light on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

With Christmas coming, some of us are counting backwards. It’s only _____ (fill in the blank) days to Christmas.

Retailers just love to count backwards. The countdown is an essential part of the commercial hype and hoopla. They make sure we know exactly how many days of shopping we have left until we’re completely spent. So as we visit the malls in the annual race to find the perfect gift, the retailers monitor our progress with the precision of a rocket launch. There’s no getting away from it. As we spend our money, they’re counting; “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, blastoff!”

In the midst of the commercial hustle and bustle, let’s remember what’s truly important. What really matters is the gift that was never packaged in foil or purchased in a store. The greatest gift of all is the One who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and born in a stall.

Now that’s not to say that buying Christmas presents for loved ones is wrong. Generosity through gift giving is an authentic expression of love. But this is a reminder that Christmas is more than boxes and bags under the Christmas tree. We count backwards primarily because we’re remembering the earthly birthday of “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).

Christ’s birth isn’t the only reason why we count backwards. We count backwards because we also know that as each day passes it brings us ever closer to Christ’s return. For in Christ’s first coming the countdown was started for His second coming. Here’s a truth we don’t always associate with Advent: This Christmas may be the last time we celebrate the birth of Christ. By next Christmas we may have celebrated seeing Him face to face!

Are you counting down? I am. Not numerically. I don’t know the day or the hour of His second coming, so I don’t know how many days until (should He come before I die) I’m caught up “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Whether I live to see Christ’s second coming or get caught up along with the dead, I know a time of rejoicing will come that will trump all Christmas celebrations. Can you imagine His return? I can. Hear Him as He says, “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7).

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