In our culture’s mad rush to start the Christmas season, I am left feeling a bit Scrooge-like. I like Advent. The anticipation that gradually builds as candle after candle are lit on the Advent wreath adds to the beauty of Christmas when it finally arrives. If we jump headlong into Christmas right after Thanksgiving, I believe we miss part of the joy of the season. Waiting has a sweet longing to it and I want that sweetness for as long as I can have it.
As a child, I remember the eagerness as I would watch the presents beneath the tree grow as time passed. My younger sister and I would check to find the ones with our names and then try to analyze what was inside. It was tempting to tear the wrapping off, but we didn’t. The soft, foldable presents were obviously clothes. Yet the ones in boxes? Those were unidentifiable. We would give them a light shake and then simply wonder about what lay nestled inside for us to discover. The waiting was half the fun. Even if I wanted to figure out what the present was before Christmas (my competitive nature desired to win), I also wanted to be surprised.
I won’t argue that I’m extremely patient, however I appreciate waiting for something good. When I get my mail, I am excited if I find a letter from a friend or a package that I ordered. Yet I generally open the less fun things first, allowing the excitement and longing for the most desired thing to build. After trick-or-treating at Halloween when I was a kid, I tried to eat my least favorite candies first, saving the best for last. Even now, I often find myself saving a bite of the best part of the meal for the end, as if to end the meal on a good note. Waiting doesn’t change the contents of the letter or the taste of the food, but it seems to add a bit of sweetness as I anticipate what is to come.
I think waiting for things is built into our nature. We wait nine months for the birth of a child. It takes years of waiting and growth for a child to become an adult. A couple of years ago my nephew said he was so excited to turn ten. Why? “Because I haven’t been that age before!” he said. The wait for a marriage proposal, the wait for an acceptance letter, and the wait for a promotion all cause us to anticipate a goodness that lies in store for us. If the great mystery of God becoming man is the good we are celebrating at Christmas, then we should spend weeks longing for this great good to come.
The Israelites waited and waited for a Savior. The longing of this people is etched into page after page of the Old Testament.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined….For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9: 2, 6
Years before Christ comes, Isaiah writes with longing for the promised Savior. It is difficult for us to fully appreciate the longing of these people as years passed and they remained trusting in God’s promises.
O Lord, we wait for you; your memorial name as the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
This short Advent season is our time of waiting and anticipating the birth of a King. We know He will come and we know when we will celebrate His birth. Yet we do not know when He will come again. The Lord’s Second Coming is a mystery to us, but we eagerly anticipate it. Advent is a reminder that we are still waiting to enter into the glorious Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven.
As we anticipate Christmas, let us anticipate the Lord’s Second Coming and what we should do to prepare for that great mystery. May we set aside anything that would keep us from rejoicing over His Coming if He came this very moment.
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.