The Anticipation of Christmas
Read Luke 2:21-38
“There was a man…looking for the consolation of Israel.”
Christmas Eve was the day we longed for, for that was the day we opened presents. The day would go like any other day. Chores would need to be done. We would need to go out and feed the pigs, clean their pens, and give them water to drink. While normally the chores would be done reluctantly and slowly, on this day we would quickly go about our assigned tasks, hoping somehow that it would cause the day to go by more quickly. Late afternoon would consist of the annual Christmas eve dinner of waffles and link sausage (the only time of the year we would have them both). Then mom and dad would load up the four squirrely kids into the car for the annual five-mile pilgrimage through the wind-swept snow to church for the Christmas Eve service. The excitement would build in anticipation of opening presents when we got home. On this day the pastor would pontificate for hours (at least it seemed that way to us), no doubt trying to change our lust for more gifts. My parents would then add to our suffering by choosing that night to wish all their friends Merry Christmas while we tugged impatiently on their arms trying to get them to the car so we could go home to the mountain of gifts awaiting us.
One year, for a reason that still mystifies my siblings and I, my parents decided to break the tradition and open the gifts on Christmas morning instead. It would prove to be a disastrous mistake as the night became the longest night not only for us, but also for our parents. Knowing that we had to wait until the light of morning the four of us gathered in our upstairs bedroom which faced east, to patiently await the arrival of the first rays of sunlight that would mark the time to open the presents. While my parents attempted to sleep the four of us children, like shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, kept watch over the eastern sky for the first flicker of light. Throughout the course of the night, one of us would triumphantly declare that the eastern sky was brightening, and morning had arrived. Confident that the time had come, we would march down the stairs to my parent’s bedroom and give them the wonderful and anticipated news. However, we would be met with a grumble as our parents informed us that it was only 2 a.m. and morning was still hours away. This procedure would then be repeated every half hour until around 5 a.m. when my parents finally decided they were not going to get any sleep and so we might as well get to the task we so impatiently waited for. The next year we went back to opening our presents on Christmas Eve and everyone got a better night’s sleep.
As I remember back to the events and the subsequent Christmases with my own children, I am reminded of the joyous anticipation of Christmas. While a child’s joy may be misplaced, there is a lesson to be learned. Christmas is a reminder of the anticipation we are to have of the arrival of Christ. This was the joy of Simeon and Anna, two individuals, who would go up to the temple praying for and look with anticipation for the coming of consolation and hope of Israel. Like children waiting for the arrival of the time to open presents, they waited for the arrival of the one who would bring redemption.
As we approach Christmas, we are reminded that we are to live in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. With the same longing of the child, we should look forward to the return of Christ when he will establish his kingdom. Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ.” As we celebrate Christmas, do we do so with eagerness, longing for his coming?