The last time I heard someone say he wasn’t ready for Jesus to come yet, it was my uncle, who had apparently said that because he wanted to see my cousin get married first.
I’ll be honest, the same thought has also occurred to me before—asking God to give me more time before His coming, so I could at least experience what being married is like, as though marriage is the culmination of my life (thanks for that, Disney!).
I’ve been thinking about all this because it’s Advent, which means “coming”. Even though it’s supposed to be a prelude to Christmas, I decided that reflecting on Jesus’s second coming might be more productive for me.
Perhaps because thinking about Christmas itself feels a little harder. The older I get, the more “Christmas” tends to feel a bit stir-crazy—all the excessive eating, the gift-giving that I’m quite bad at, hearing the same songs and the same nativity story (and the same “He’s the reason for this season!”) that feels more like Groundhog Day than anything else.
I’m ready, because I’m so done
I like to think I’m ready for Jesus to come, because life is hard and I am tired. Recently, my cousin got diagnosed with lymphoma, while his dad is still undergoing treatment for his.
And reading the news—the war in Ukraine, multiple mass shootings in the US, exploitation of workers around the world—it’s hard not to feel pained, helpless, and desperate for these horrible things to end.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-24)
It is as the apostle Paul said—it “is better by far” to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23). Because when He returns, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
On second thought
The other night, however, I was on my way home from dinner with a friend when it occurred to me that I may not be ready yet for Jesus.
Not because I suddenly recalled my bucket list. But because this friend I had just met up with doesn’t believe in Jesus. And then there’s my sister, who still can’t decide if she believes in Jesus.
If Jesus comes tomorrow, there’s no more time for them. I’m not ready for that.
In an Advent sermon, Tim Keller reminds us that Christmas is really about salvation, because if there’s no Christmas, there’s no Jesus becoming human, no death, no resurrection.
For us who have been in the faith for a long time, salvation is just another word that we take for granted. But for those who don’t believe in Jesus yet, salvation is a life-and-death matter. And Christmas becomes more than just another annual event.
Ready or not, He will come
As I grapple with this tension (I’m ready to see Jesus, but what about him/her who isn’t?), I seek comfort in knowing that God is so infinitely wise and loving that He welcomes me even with all my messy emotions, uneasiness, and confusion.
I wonder if Jesus, too, experienced this kind of tension when He first came—knowing that He was going to bring deliverance, and yet it wouldn’t be completed in His lifetime; being eager to save us, yet having to wait for us to actually believe and accept His gift.
All this reminds me of these words in 2 Peter 3:8-9:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Jesus knows why we’re not ready, and that’s why He’s slow in coming, too.
Somehow, this perspective allows me to step into Christmas without feeling strained. This way, I find that Christmas can be meaningful even if I don’t feel cheerful/peaceful/“close to God”; that in the absence of the right emotions, the truth gives me enough reason:
Jesus’s story is more than just an annual play we put on for Christmas eve. His birth is more than just a historical event we rehearse. This is the truth—He lived, so He could die, so we can live. And now, He is showing us the full stretch of His patience, giving everyone ample time to turn to Him and repent.
My Christmas prayer
All this makes Christmas relevant—compelling, urgent—to me now. Because the people I love aren’t seeing their desperate need for this gift, I need to pray hard, that they’ll see it before it’s too late.
So, as I begin praying about this, I cannot help but be thankful for how Jesus—His story, His truth, His hope—has remained real to me all these years.
His story reminds me that He lived a human life and experienced what we all do—hunger, sickness, weakness, pain, death. His truth means that death and sin don’t have the final say in my life, that I am not beyond change. His hope keeps me going when days feel dull and dreary and hard.
This Christmas, my deepest yearning is that my sister would get to experience for herself as I have—that Jesus is real and true. My hope is that my friend will encounter God just as Saul did (Acts 9:5, 17-18), in an undeniable way that will completely wash away his unbelief.
And whenever I don’t have enough faith to keep praying, I cling to the thought that God loves them more than I ever will. That if I’m heartbroken, He is too, more so. But He is not helpless as I am, and what looks hopeless to me is not impossible for Him.
A bigger hope than my own cares
Isaiah 61 tells us the full significance of Jesus’s coming (both first and second):
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
For the people around the world who are in deep suffering, His hope means that He cares deeply for the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15), and all the evil—the exploitation, the killing—will not go unpunished.
For my family experiencing illness, His hope means their mourning and despair will be met with comfort and provision and, in time, replaced with joy and praise. Healing will come, whether it is now and temporary, or later and permanent, when we are with Him in heaven.
I think my in-between state is similar to how theology professor David Briones describes:
“The Christian life is…an already-but-not-yet sort of existence… By faith in Christ, all of these spiritual blessings are ours already, but the full enjoyment of these blessings is not yet ours. [We have] “the assurance of things hoped for” in the future, and “the conviction of things not seen” in the present (Hebrews 11:1). This is life between the times.”
I am ready, but not yet too, and it’s not easy to reconcile this, but the God of time, “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8) is perfectly able to understand. In this moment, He teaches me that even this kind of strange longing can be reflective of the Christmas spirit.
 David Briones, “Already But Not Yet: How to Live in the Last Days”. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/already-not-yet