As I sit and type this post tonight, I do so in the warm glow of Christmas lights on our tree nearby. And within arm’s reach are our stockings hanging on the mantel. Across the room I can see garland wind through the banisters lining the steps leading upstairs. From the other room comes wafting the sounds of Amy Grant singing “A Christmas To Remember.” I’m struck by how appropriate the song is at this very moment.
Today is December 1st, and along with millions around the globe, I have started on the road we call “Advent”. It will eventually lead us to peer over the edge of a manger and to gaze down at a child wriggling in the blanket He’s wrapped in as the straw is pushed away from His face by His mother. We’ll gather there and stand in amazement at not just the miracle of birth, but rather the miracle of THIS birth; the fleshy incarnation of the divine plan to reunite the creation with the Creator. In this baby is the promise of the ages, the help for the nations, and the hope for eternity. In the face of the God-child, we see all-at-once the normal traces of a newborn child as well as the mystery of a God who would care enough about His lost children to send the only One who can help, who can save, who can redeem. The Messiah is born.
The word advent is a word that means “coming”. It is the season of expectation that precedes the arrival of Jesus, born to earth. The focus on this season is that our hearts would be drawn into a reverent, jubilant announcement that the Savior of the world, prophecied about hundreds of years beforehand, is finally here!
I’ll be honest. While I have known about Jesus almost as long as I’ve known about Santa Claus, I really haven’t gotten myself into the whole “Advent” thing. My mind has traditionally categorized it under the same heading as things like Lent, Ash Wednesday, and other “high church”-feeling activities. To put it simply, it hasn’t been interesting to me.
Let me share with you a brief history of me and Christmas. I grew up in a home that loved Jesus. I saw it more as loving going to church services, but now I see that a love for Jesus was behind it all. Still, my parents (I don’t blame them) also wanted me to have the fun of believing in Santa Claus. So for the first several years of my life I went to bed Christmas Eve with the full knowledge that an overweight elf was going to somehow deliver gifts to my house. The fact that we didn’t have a fireplace didn’t seem to faze me in the slightest. After all, if he can visit every home in the world in one night, the absence of a chimney hardly seemed like an obstacle. Not to mention, he had proven himself several years running. Yep, a fan of Santa was I.
That is, until the inevitable happened. It was Christmas Eve and my folks had tucked me in to bed and I assumed were heading off to bed themselves. After all, they wouldn’t want to get in Santa’s way, right? Certainly they wouldn’t want to slow him down, what with his tight schedule and all. That’s why I didn’t think twice about getting out of bed and heading down the hall toward the kitchen for a drink.
And that’s the moment Santa died.
I approached the living room to find my parents; each with presents in their hands as they were in mid-stoop to place them under the tree. They both turned to look at me and……have you ever been in that moment when you walking into an occupied bathroom and both occupier and intruder have that hanging moment when eyes lock, minds scream, but neither does or says anything due to being frozen solid? Yep, that’s the moment.
I don’t remember saying anything, and come to think of it, I don’t remember getting that glass of water either. I simply remember being back in bed shortly after with a new found maturity and newly lost grip on who in tar nation had been raising me all these years, because according to recently discovered evidence, I was the lovechild of two bold-faced liars. Turns out they’re actually 2 amazingly gifted and giving people. And I have grown to love them dearly.
This morning I was reading “Day 1″ of an advent reading. It was the account of an 8-day-old Jesus being brought to the temple for his…um…shall we say…”ceremony”. A man there named Simeon had been awaiting the arrival of the King and identified the Godboy immediately. In fact, he was so moved by seeing Jesus he took God the baby in his arms and began talking to God the Father: “As you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” Or in other words, “I can die a happy man!”
Can you imagine that kind of joy? Just the very sight of a drooling, perhaps dirty-diapered baby; but the One you KNEW was the promised, anointed Savior of the world. The very sight of that child brought Simeon to immediate readiness for the grave. Can you reach into your own heart and bring out that kind of passion for Jesus? THAT is the kind of joy this Christmas season will captivate my heart with. And I can’t wait.