Advent has arrived. There is lots to look forward to. I wonder what you look forward to during advent?
I look forward to spending time with family and friends, giving and receiving gifts, brisk walks in cold, crisp air followed by steaming cups of hot chocolate by a log fire.
When I was growing up in Scotland we lived in the shadow of an extinct volcano called the Eildon Hills. My village is 232 metres (761 ft) above sea level and the summit of the Eildon Hill is 422m above sea level (1384 ft). It takes about 50 minutes to climb to the top. I love the sense of achievement and the spectacular views from the top. I also love looking back down the hill to see the way we walked up.
The Eildon Hills from Scott’s View (the place where Walter Scott sat for inspiration for his novels.)
Advent is like climbing to the summit of a hill. On Christmas day we stand at the summit and look back and admire the view of the way we have come. We look right back into history and see the unfolding and unrelenting work of God, saving a world thrown into chaos by the work of evil and the waywardness of all people. And so I look forward to our celebrations this Christmas. I look forward to singing with all God’s people about the amazing day when the Saviour of world was born.
Climbing the Eildons presents another way of looking at advent and Christmas. You see there are three false summits (or false horizons) which trick first time climbers into thinking that they are near the top when there is still lots of climbing to do.
Advent and Christmas each year are like a false summit. We climb up to Christmas but if we think that we’ve made the top then we miss something much more important to come. The question of Christmas is for us all is, how far does our horizon stretch?
There is a final summit, a place we will all one day reach.
What is this final summit? It is the day when Christ returns to fairly judge all people according to his law. On that day he will give each person what we rightly deserve. On that day there will be two groups of people.
One group will be given a gift they don’t deserve. The greatest gift of all Christmas gifts. For those who had received the gift of Jesus, his birth, life, teaching, death on the cross, resurrection from the dead and reign as king by his law, there will be the gift of eternal life with him (John 3:16).
But for the second group of people, who continued throughout their life with a bad attitude towards God, and an attitude of rebellion against his good and pleasing will, all those who rejected the gift of Jesus and his love, then there will be the shocking and sickening realisation. For this group there is a lake of burning sulphur awaiting, hotter than the lava which once flowed from the Eildon Hills (John 3:36).
As we look forward at Christmas, the final summit is one which fills everyone who knows and loves Jesus with joy and expectation which is far greater than the short term joy of Christmas parties, presents and people.
There is one last Eildon Hill story which I want to tell you. One autumn my Scout troop, about 25 teenage boys, went out on the Eildon Hills for a man hunt. We scattered across the hill hunting down a leader. As we played the game, a thick fog came down and it began to snow. We were caught in a white out. We could not see more than 15 or 20 yards ahead. We were lost and needed rescued. We needed someone to save us. This is what Jesus came to do. He is our rescuer from the works of evil. If you have not yet been saved by the Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus, then I pray that this Christmas your Saviour will find you and the the fog will lift for you.
The fact that I am here today tells the end of the Eildon story. I was rescued. May the same be true for us all when we stand on the final summit before our holy and just God.
Come Lord Jesus, come.
With much love