Advent began yesterday, the first of four Sundays leading to Christmas. If you are like me, it always sneaks up and leaves me feeling behind from the start.
Maybe it’s because I like to savor Thanksgiving and our once-a-year gathering with extended family that makes me reluctant to move on to Christmas before the Thanksgiving weekend is even over.
I suppose I’m in a tiny minority of those who didn’t do all their Christmas decorating over the Thanksgiving weekend … I just can’t. It’s too much too soon for me. And it obscures my focus on gratitude, which is crucially important.
But Advent reminds us of a much different kind of anticipation for Christmas than the commercialized, consumer-focus of our world. It began last Sunday and it’s okay if you, like me, missed it.
Looking forward to Santa is emphatically not the central theme of Christmas; instead it’s longing for and anticipating the coming of Christ. For many multiplied centuries God’s people waited and hoped for the Messiah who was promised. Praying for His coming; O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
Anticipation is not just for children, but is a crucial element of grown-up, mature faith. For what is faith if it is not expectation? Believing that God will fulfill His promises without seeing that fulfillment is its essence.
We so easily forget how long God’s people waited for His first coming. For thousands of years God gave clues through a steady stream of messages delivered by His prophets hinting at the time and place where Jesus would come. He was preparing the way.
But then there was a 400-year pregnant pause of silence until “the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4).
As I wrote in the opening stanza of the book, What God Wants for Christmas, this long wait had become a very dark period of time:
Twas the week before Christmas
But nobody knew.
No stockings, no ornaments,
No gifts or good news.
All the world had lost hope
All the people felt fear.
Now listen, I’ll tell you
Why Christmas came near.
When Emmanuel came He was so much more than anyone anticipated. Far more than an earthly king who would deliver them from the tyranny they had endured for centuries, Jesus came to deliver them and us from our bondage to sin. Even better, He came to be with us forever, the meaning of the name Emmanuel.
He is not a God who is wandering the galaxies, but He is here, still on earth, living within all who have welcomed Him into the home of their hearts.
Marking the Sundays of Advent is a way we can practice this same patience. I love to tell moms, “It’s better to do even one lesson than never start and therefore do none.”
Like stringing pearls on a cord one by one, God linked beautiful hints of His gift to come one by one for His people to cling to in hope. Some of those pearls of recognition were the names of the promised Messiah in each stanza of the wonderful hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse …
O Come, Thou Dayspring …
O Come, Thou Key of David …
O Come, Adonai, Lord of might …
Watching and waiting for this coming One, the Man of many names, grew patience in His people. And God is doing the same in His people today … growing our patience as we wait for His second Advent. Like the people of the Old Testament who waited for thousands of years we have now waited two thousand years since Jesus ascended to heaven declaring He will return in the same way.
Jesus told us to have faith like a child. At Christmas we can become a child again as we allow anticipation to grow in our faith. As we wait for the day of His birth, remembering that He will come again. Our faith also grows as we continue to believe Him even though we continue to wait and long for His promised return.
Do you know Him?
Will you welcome Him, the miracle of Christmas?
Will you sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as a prayer from your heart?
Grow anticipation in your faith as you continue to wait on His coming and use an Advent devotion to help you and your family practice trusting Him this Christmas season.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
If you enjoyed this, check out some other Christmas posts by Barbara:
- “A Christmas Rescue”
- “Unhappy Holidays: How to Find Specks of Light in the Darkness of Winter”
- “Be Present”
Also, be sure to download Barbara Rainey’s new eBook, Why We Need Gratitude Now More Than Ever!