Praise the LORD! Pastor Saeed Abedini and several other Americans being held in prison in Iran have finally been released! Saeed’s wife is even now on her way to Germany to be reunited with her husband. She and the children have not seen him in more than three years. Just imagine the emotions going on in her heart and mind right now, and the excitement of the children in finally getting to see their dad again. They weren’t sure they ever would—on this earth. We need to continue to pray for Saeed, though, as he has gone through tremendous torture and untreated illnesses which have surely taken a toll on his body and mind. And we need to pray for the many Christians who continue to be persecuted world wide.
Some of you may have witnessed another reunion that took place at an Anaheim Ducks hockey game. Sergeant First Class Robert Vandenberg had been in Afghanistan for ten months and had never seen his newborn son, Travis. His wife was able to Skype with him over the big jumbo screen so that at least in a small way, he could be “home” for Christmas and “see” his new son. But, as thousands watched the touching reunion by screen, there was barely time for “hellos” before the sergeant started disappearing as the screen went blurry and static came over the speaker. Sadly, his wife handed the microphone back to a team rep. At that very moment, however, Sergeant Vandenberg walked down the steps of the arena right into the arms of his wife! Then he picked up his son and held him up in front of him—looking into his eyes for the very first time. What a surprise, blessed “appearing.”
One Hallmark’s Christmas movie this season centered around a young mother and her son who were awaiting the return of their husband and father who had been wounded in Afghanistan and was recovering in Germany. His commanding officer had hoped he could be released to make it home for Christmas, but the doctor had felt he needed to stay until the new year. His wife and son were greatly disappointed. The boy had written to Santa saying he didn’t want any gifts for Christmas other than to have his dad home, but they had resigned to not having him there. A friend who had some connections with the military secretly arranged for him to make it home for Christmas. His wife and son were at the community tree lighting where he surprised them—again a very moving scene of reunion.
I remember as a young boy when my dad, who had been very sick and was not getting any answers from local doctors where we lived at the time, traveled by bus to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It was winter and we walked with him down our long lane in the snow, where he waited for the bus to come by and pick him up. I didn’t really know if I’d ever get to see him again. I was afraid he might die. I can still picture in my mind the bus picking him up, along with his suitcase, and our waving goodbye. Pretty traumatic to my young, impressionable mind and heart. Then was the long wait, hoping, praying, and watching for his return. (He did come back but battled his illness for a few more years before finding a solution).
As exciting and heart-stirring as the above stories of reunion are, just imagine what it will be like when our Lord returns for His Church! And, considering the world-scene, it could be very soon! I believe that after Jesus ascended back to heaven and the angels told those watching: “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:11), that believers have anticipated Jesus’ return in their lifetime. I believe that’s how God wants it to be, so that we live in such a way that we will be excited to see Him come. The Apostle Paul surely lived that way. In the final letter he wrote before his martyrdom, he said, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” ( Tim. 4: 8).
Are you longing for the Lord to return—and not just to escape the problems and persecution on the earth—(but) because you love Him so much and can’t wait to see Him face to face and be with Him eternally? The assured hope of His return should cause us to live each day as if He might come today. John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I Jn. 3:2,3). John’s challenge to us is: “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28). If we, as Paul, “fight the good fight…finish the course… (and) keep the faith” (II Tim. 4:7), we will definitely be loving His appearing. If we fail to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33), as Jesus exhorted, but instead, focus on self and building up our “kingdom,” we will not “love His appearing,” but will be ashamed to see Him come? So, which will it be for you if Jesus returns this year?—and He surely could.
“Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)