Our vacation to Melbourne Beach, Florida was filled with expected and unexpected high points. The beach, the weather, the manatees, and our hosts’ phenomenal hospitality were all amazing. But among the unexpected high points were the nesting sea turtles, viewing the construction site for SpaceX’s Starship and visiting the American Space Museum and Space Walk of Fame. With its awkwardly long name and very small building, on a quiet side street in Titusville, Florida, the American Space Museum and Space Walk of Fame did not seem very promising at first glance. Oh, how wrong that assessment proved to be!
The museum’s collection of NASA artifacts and memorabilia is prodigious, but its greatest treasures are its volunteers, many of whom were career NASA employees. Their depth of knowledge, experience, and perspective about all things NASA was worth any price of admission. You quickly discover that these unassuming docents are retired rocket scientists and electrical engineers. Even some of the guests had remarkable stories. One woman we met designed and fabricated the heat tiles, as well as the heat resistant quilted lining, for the STS (Space Shuttle) vehicles.
An entire room was required to house the carefully restored computer used to synchronize the countdown for all the Saturn V and Atlas rocket launches. After all, nothing is more essential to a rocket launch than the countdown. But countdowns not only sequence the details of a rocket launch. They also conduct and heighten expectations surrounding the important events of our lives.
As a child, once Halloween had passed, I could give anyone who asked an accurate countdown to Christmas. Even now in our family, the beloved Advent calendar is an important part of our Christmas décor and observance. But in all the excitement of counting down the days to Christmas are we preparing ourselves as much for the reality of the Incarnation as we do for the remembrance of it?
It is easy to confuse the remembrance with the realities of the great mystery of Christ manifest in the flesh. Perhaps this is why so often when December 25 passes, a sense of unfulfillment and drear settles upon us. We vested confidence in the celebration and not the thing celebrated. Then predictably it fails to deliver. And our holiday peace, hope, and joy get stored away in the attic with the lights and greenery.
God spent thousands of years preparing mankind for the coming of Christ. The countdown begins in the book of Genesis. Even as God was pronouncing the curse of the Fall, He was also promising a redeemer. He gave the people sacrifices and law and ceremony, designed to teach them how salvation would be provided — ceremonies that painted a vivid picture of sins curse and its cure. Yet these ceremonies had no power to save through mere religious observance. So, scripture warns about the insufficiency of mere creatures to save.
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4
… you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19
Men predictably confused faith in the promise with faith in the practice. Just as we often confuse celebration with substance, and remembrances with realities, God’s ancient people put their hope for redemption in mere creatures rather than in the Redeemer, God had promised. Our Heidelberg Catechism warns us not to follow their ruinous example when it asks.
Can any mere creature make satisfaction for us? None: for first, God will not punish, in any other creature, that of which man has made himself guilty; and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin, and redeem others therefrom. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 5, Question 14.
The countdown is on. Christmas is a little more than 5 weeks away. What are you preparing for? Are you preparing for the reality of the Incarnation, or trusting merely in annual remembrance to provide peace, joy and hope? Join us this Sunday, November 17 as we examine Hebrews 10:1-18 and consider the danger of seeking redemption from created things, including our holidays, traditions, religious observance, celebrations or family. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:45 am for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. We look forward to seeing you.