Kids and the holidays go together. The crisp air of fall conjures up memories of my sister and me tittering with excitement at bedtime. “Can you wait ’til Christmas?” “No! I can’t!” “Me neither!” The Sears Catalogue (our “Wish Book”) inspired multiple revisions of our gift lists that we prepared for our parents. Spritz cookie dough squeezed out of the cookie press as we “helped” mom make cookies shaped like trees, camels, stars, and angels. Cookies, fudge, and brownies loaded plates ready to take to Aunt Helen’s house. Oranges and nuts filled stockings. Grown-up hands guided little hands putting ornaments on trees and paper around packages. Two curly heads poked themselves into every preparation. Four dreamy eyes gazed at everything that set this season apart, getting ready for that big day. To this day, the giggles of bright-eyed kids in PJs with feet in them (I think “feetsie pajamas” is the technical term) best capture the anticipation of the weeks waiting for Christmas to arrive.
That’s what these weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about – anticipation and preparation. We are getting ready for the Advent – the arrival of Christ. This is a period when we look forward by looking back and use the past to guide our preparations for the future.
Just like kids at Christmas, we long for a big day to arrive. Sure celebrations around the tree are a highlight. I can’t wait to imbibe the strains of the Christmas concert. No doubt you’re looking forward to a day or two off and extra quality time with family and friends. Celebration nourishes our souls just like a turkey or ham fills our stomachs. But multiple Christmases have taught us that the special moments pass and the daily grind returns all too quickly. We’re looking for a better day – a celebration that doesn’t end. We’re looking for Jesus to come and stay.
And if we spend hours preparing for that fleeting celebration, we need to commit our lives to preparing for the eternal one. That’s the heart of Advent. Using the big day in December to inspire our preparation for the endless day yet to come.
“For this reason you be ready too, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” – Matthew 24:44
“Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” – 1 John 3:3
Some day the King in the manger will come back. We get ready for that day by honoring Him as king with grateful obedience. We look forward to presenting Him with the gift of our purified hearts.
Our hope is fixed and certain. How do we know? By looking back. Our hope rests in a God who has demonstrated His faithfulness by acting in history. The God who IS (that’s what His name, Jehovah, means) shows us what He is like by what He does in our world and in our lives.
He demonstrated His faithfulness to Abraham by giving him a son – a miracle child. He let us see His power by humbling Egypt’s mighty 18th dynasty at the hand of the eighty-year-old Moses. He showed how he keeps His promises by giving Israel the Promised Land. He acted as the perfect Father throughout Israel’s sordid history, all the while laying down promises of Someone to come. Someone who would set things right.
And His people waited, anticipating that great day. Through the ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs of life in a sinful world, they looked forward to the coming of the Messiah – the Christ. Though their expectation dragged on for centuries, they were confident because of what God had done in the past. The day seemed like it would never come, but it did. It came quietly, but the birth of Christ forever changed the world.
So now, we wait. Joyfully we prepare for Christmas. Enjoy! Wrap the presents. Trim the tree. Tell the stories. Ready the feast. Savor the moments. But as you prepare to celebrate the past, remember to get ready for the future. Jesus came to us once, and He promised He will come again. We live between those two Advents, celebrating the incarnation – the babe in the manger – and preparing for the second coming – the return of our King.
Dave Dussault – Prayer Ministries Director