Like the Whos in Whoville, we think everythings safe. We think everythings secure. We make our lists and check them twice.
- Packages are wrapped. Check.
- Bows are tied. Check.
- Stockings are hung. Check.
- Tree decorated. Check.
- Feast is prepared. Check.
Then the thief comes. Like the Grinch, he takes away our Christmas and leaves us stripped of our things.
Lisa Kilbride understands. Last year, Lisa thought shed get her Christmas shopping out of the way early. Lisa is the mother of four boys who at the time were 2, 4, 7, and 12. The family was moving to a new house, so she bought early and stashed the gifts at the old house to keep the kids from peeking. She wrapped some of the toys Friday afternoon and left them overnight to finish Saturday.
When she came back, she found that the presents had been torn open and some of the toys stolen. The minute I walked into the family room, my heart just sank, she said. I immediately saw wrapping paper and everything open and I thought, Did Doug [her husband] come over here with the kids?
She quickly surmised it wasnt her kidsbut it probably was someone elses. The thieves took what they wanted and escaped.
Thievery at Christmastime?! We are appalled by the idea. And yet Jesus tells us his coming is like that of a thief. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, Do not let God surprise you, like a thief in the night. In fact, five times in the New Testament the coming of God is compared to the intrusion of a thief. Twice in Revelation: I will come like a thief (Rev. 3:3; 16:15).
In all your Christmas preparations are your prepared for the thief? Let me give you two pieces of advice.
First, take note of when thieves come. Thieves come when we think were safe. Thieves come when we think were secure. The thief knows that well let down our guard if we dont think hes coming. Well get busy. Well quit thinking about him. Well quit watching for him. Then, before we know it, hes there! Interrupting our safe secure lives and jolting us with his presence.
Like the thief, God comes when we least expect it. In the night. In a manger. In the form of a child. In our busyness. In our loneliness. In our friendships. Maybe even in the Christmas season. Are you watching?
Second, dont become too attached to this world or the things of this world.
My family spent the Thanksgiving holidays in area of the country that has a high cost of living. For example, a townhouse in Old Town Alexandria. Virginia, built in the mid-1700s, will cost more than $1 million. People in the area are working hard for money to accumulate a certain living status.
He came to steal away whatever it is in your life that has too much of your attention so he can have you.
In the middle of all this wealth sits Christ Church. Its an old Episcopal Church building that dates back to 1767. George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshiped there. It is a church surrounded by great history and great wealth. Its also surrounded by a graveyard.
Each Sunday or with each passing by of the church, Alexandrians are reminded that someday all these things will not matter too much. Great accomplishments may be remembered in history books but they dont keep you alive. Great wealth may add some pleasures to your life, but it cant postpone the inevitable. Thieves come to steal those things from us. And when theyre gone, were left feeling vulnerable. Open. Maybe even dead.
Maybe thats why God is described as a thief. He comes in and shows us what a thief shows us. That we are much too concerned about things that dont last. That we avoid him by busying ourselves with much to do. That we pile up present after present... so high that we lose sight of him.
He steals things from us so that we are left feeling vulnerable. Violated. Disturbed. Disturbed just enough to focus our attention back on him. When all else is removed we can see him more clearly.
Like Lindas thief, this one comes as a child. Unlike hers, this one was caught. Matthews gospel shows us a Messiah that died on a cross. Between two thieves.
Why? Because he is a thief. He came to steal away whatever it is in your life that has too much of your attention so he can have you.
When he does, maybe youll find what the Whos found in Whoville. With all their hoarded gifts gone, they found room for the Spirit of Christmas. They learned that Christmas is more than the presents and food.
And with those out of the way, watch out. All thats left to be stolen is your heart. And thats exactly what this thief would die to have.