New York City’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, hosts a standing-room-only service on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. These Episcopal services seem beyond this world to many who are not used to the candles, choirs, stained-glass windows, liturgy and vestments, and gorgeous music echoing throughout the cathedral. The services are packed every year because they are an oasis of peace and beauty.
Beautiful celebrations of Christmas create a dream-like state; they resurrect the dream announced by the heavenly angels on that first Christmas night in Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)
Speaking of Beyond This World…
Only one person has ever seen a glimpse of the peace on earth that was announced at the first Christmas: the apostle John. Christ showed the apostle a vision of heaven more beautiful and peaceful than anything ever seen on earth. But it was not a vision of peace in heaven. It was something that will come to pass on earth. It was a vision of the New Jerusalem which, as the dwelling place of God and His people for eternity, will descend onto the new earth (Revelation 21:1-2). God created the earth in beauty and peace and will recreate it the same way. When the New Jerusalem descends from heaven to earth, there will be peace on earth and goodwill toward men forever.
As we celebrate Christmas this year—and as joyous, beautiful, and peaceful as our celebrations might be—we must remind ourselves that the true celebration of Christ is yet to come.
Speaking of Beautiful…
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City may be the nation’s best-known tree. The first one was twenty feet tall, decorated with fruit, paper garlands, and even a few tin cans by the workers that built Rockefeller Center in 1931. Today’s Rockefeller Center tree is more extravagant: It is between seventy and one hundred feet tall, covered with more than thirty thousand lights connected by five miles of wiring, and topped with a nine-foot star that weighs precisely 550 pounds.
What John saw in his vision of heaven is even more beautiful. Revelation 21:9-27 contains the iconic descriptions of heaven we are used to hearing: streets of gold, gates of pearls, and its crystalline cube shape. The earthly language John used to describe the heavenly city is no doubt inadequate, but he used the most glorious terms available to him: gold, crystal, pearls, transparent glass, glory, and the like.
Whatever beauty you see this Christmas, appreciate it while you remind yourself that the true beauty of Christmas is yet to come.
Speaking of Peaceful…
Any peace you experience this Christmas will be short-lived. Not your personal peace—but the “peace” that this world tries to offer. There will still be tears to come between now and the fulfillment of John’s vision of heaven. But listen to how he described the peace he saw in the New Jerusalem: “God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
The best peace this world will provide or allow is nothing compared to the true peace on earth that is yet to come.
Speaking of Goodwill…
There is no higher calling at Christmas than to be bearers of the same message the angels announced to the shepherds—a message of peace with God to those who will embrace His indescribable gifts of forgiveness and salvation. We extend goodwill to others at Christmas in a variety of ways—gifts, heartfelt hugs, hospitality, treats, and meals. But those gifts of goodwill are just shadows compared to the gift of eternal peace we are empowered to offer to others. As with any gift, we cannot control how well it is received or appreciated. But we can certainly give the gift away.
Beauty, peace, goodwill—together they create the dream Christmas we all aspire to achieve. But the day is coming when we will dream of the perfect Christmas no more. We will be living it!
As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember the Christ Child who embodies peace and celebrate Him in all His splendor—which spans for all eternity.
David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
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