A Holy Anticipation
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid at Christmas time? More often than not, the holiday sneaks up on adults. There’s shopping to do, parties to attend, cards to be sent—the tasks sometimes blind us to the passing days.
But not children. They are born to anticipate. Wide-eyed from the arrival of the first Christmas catalogs until 11 pm Christmas Eve, they await their treasures with unwavering enthusiasm. My children begin playing “Christmas morning” the moment their stockings are hung on the mantle, filling and emptying them repeatedly throughout the day. They want to put all the Jesse Tree ornaments on the first day and light all the advent candles on the first night. They don’t even wait until December to begin asking, “How many more days, Mama?” This question can be heard as soon as their birthdays pass in the spring.
As a family, we attempt to harness that anticipation and sanctify it. We, of course, don’t let them open their presents early (we don’t usually have them early anyway). We put only one ornament on our Jesse Tree each day, watching the story of redemption unfold gradually throughout the month. We light one candle each Sunday to remind us to anticipate.
Advent is a season of waiting; these days are set apart as a season of remembering, of experiencing again, the longing God’s children had for their promised Messiah. They longed for the One who would crush the head of the serpent, extend the blessing of Abraham to all mankind, free his people from their bondage, rule in justice and peace, and shepherd his people. They waited. They hoped. They longed and anticipated.
And he came. God, born as a baby. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). He came that he may be our high priest, experiencing hunger, pain, temptation (Heb. 4:15). He came as a second Adam, to obey perfectly when we could not (Romans 5:19). He came to die, as a sacrifice for sin. He came. Good news of great joy.
And he is coming. A king, to establish a kingdom. There will be no more tears, no more mourning. The sin that entangles will be no more, and even death will die. As the Jesus Storybook Bible says, “Everything sad will come untrue.” As Scripture promises, “He will wipe away every tear from every eye.” (Rev. 21:4)
The more the years pass, the more I ache for his coming and the more meaningful this season of waiting becomes. Friends suffer with debilitating illnesses. Marriages fall apart. Typhoons and earthquakes decimate villages. Children endure abuse, slavery, abandonment. And then there’s me—struggling against my sin, anxious, weary, frustrated. I, too, wait for redemption, and am ever more aware of my need for it.
We live between the two Advents. We rejoice because he has come, accomplishing the salvation of our souls through his death on the cross. Even so, we long for his second coming, when Christ will make all things new and our sanctification will be complete. We find ourselves at the intersection of joy and hope, for “we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).” For this, we wait with holy anticipation.