I heard about a man whose birthday falls in the middle of December. For most of his life his brother had gave him just one present to cover both birthday and Christmas, and he always saved that combined present for Christmas. But last year most unusually the brother gave the man a present for his birthday as well. With great excitement he unwrapped the wrapping paper to find a box. He opened the box and inside he found two things. The first was a single slipper for a left foot. The second thing was a simple card. “Happy Birthday. Guess what you’re getting for Christmas!”
That little story is actually the perfect parable for tonight’s message, which I have entitled,
“The best is yet to come.” You may know that phrase particularly from the song.
Out of the tree of life I just picked me a plum
You came along and everything started to hum
Still it’s a real good bet the best is yet to come
The best is yet to come and, babe, won’t it be fine?
You think you’ve seen the sun but you ain’t seen it shine
We usually associate Frank Sinatra with the song “My way”. In fact the epitaph on Frank Sinatra’s tombstone is those words, “The best is yet to come”. A fitting epitaph, and a most fitting message in this season of advent.
Advent comes from the Latin meaning “coming” or “arrival” which was itself a translation of the Greek parousia which also means coming but is actually much more often used to refer to Christ’s second coming! The season of advent not only prepares us to celebrate as we look back at the events of Christ’s first coming, the Nativity. This season of advent also looks forward to the return of Christ in glory.
Because the Christmas story is actually only half the story, the first instalment, the left slipper by itself in the box. We have yet to see the fulfilment of God’s cosmic master-plan to redeem the whole of Creation. And the best is definitely yet to come!
The people of Israel had been waiting for centuries. Waiting for the day when God’s salvation would come. Looking forward to the day when God would act as King, punish those who were not His chosen People and establish His Kingdom in the world. The prophets had pointed the way forward. The Word of God the Old Testament was brimming over with promises of God’s salvation, promises of all the blessings God has in store for his people. The prophets spoke from God so many times about this promised salvation and so for centuries the people of Israel had been waiting the person who would bring in that God’s wonderful salvation – The Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD- 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
The people of Israel had been waiting so long for their Messiah. And he came in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Isaiah 7:14 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Born of the Virgin Mary as the prophets foretold. Revealing God. Teaching with authority. Working miracles. But then – surprise. It must have seemed as if everything had gone wrong. The messiah is arrested, put on trial, crucified as a common criminal. Dead and Buried! And even though Jesus gloriously rose from the dead, he then ascended into heaven. With so many wonderful promises only partially unfulfilled. He’d started but he hadn’t finished!
This was the message Jesus brought. The kingdom of God is here. But not actually, “the Kingdom of God has completely arrived.” That would have been a different word. What Jesus preached time and again was “The kingdom of God has come near you.” “The kingdom of God has touched you.” “The kingdom of God has brushed up against you.” The kingly rule of God has begun. But it hasn’t fully arrived yet!
Because in His earthly ministry Jesus began to fulfil so many of the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah and the End Times, the Day of the Lord, or the Year of the Lord. He began to fulfil those promises, but many of them await their ultimate fulfilment when Jesus will return again in glory with the Holy angels, on that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. While we wait for that day, we have only experienced a foretaste of God’s blessings – the best is yet to come!
So for this evening, let us hear some of God’s wonderful promises, especially from the prophet Isaiah, which have begun to be fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, but which will only be fully expressed at the Second coming. Let us look forward with anticipation!
Isa 45:17 But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.
Isa 46:13 I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendour to Israel.
God’s wonderful salvation has begun – but it has yet to be completed. SALVATION
The best is yet to come.
40:10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
35:3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
That rescue which God promised to his people Israel is now for all people everywhere who will humble themselves and accept God’s grace. RESCUE The best is yet to come.
1 ¶ “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”
11:3 He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Our world is still spoiled by injustice. JUSTICE The best is yet to come.
CLEANSING and FORGIVENESS
55:6 ¶ Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
4:3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy.
35:8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about
We all need that highway – that Way of Holiness! One day we will be completely pure and holy – but none of us have arrived there yet! CLEANSING and FORGIVENESS The best is yet to come!
40:3 ¶ A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
60:1 ¶ “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
60:19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
What a wonderful day that will be – when we will see God face to face! Many Christians look forward to the Second Coming because it will mean the end of the troubles and problems of this world. But the better reason we look forward to Christ’s return is that we will be with him forever.
John 14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
GOD’S PRESENCE The best is yet to come!
4:5 Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding-place from the storm and rain.
11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In this life we only experience a foretaste of the wonderful peace which life in God’s presence will bring to each one of us. PEACE The best is definitely yet to come!
35:5 ¶ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
42:6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
This life still has its suffering and pain in so many ways. One day those sufferings will end forever in God’s presence. HEALING The best is yet to come.
55:2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.
25:6 ¶ On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The promise of the Banquet of the Messiah, the Marriage Feast of the lamb. Overflowing blessings. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall but God’s eternal kingdom will stand forever! OVERFLOWING BLESSINGS The best is yet to come!
25:9 ¶ In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
35:10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
55:12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
The joy which we experience in this life is just a foretaste, a glimpse of the joys which await us when Christ returns. Salvation, rescue, justice, cleansing, forgiveness, God’s presence, peace, safety, healing, overflowing blessings, joy. So here are God’s glorious promises. Until Christ returns again we simply wait with anticipation. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad! The best is definitely yet to come!