Thursday, December 03, 2009

Waiting for Christmas continued

Okay, so normally, I post and then, once it's out there, it's said and, well, gone. I think about it as I'm writing and the process helps me work through whatever is going on. The first Waiting on Christmas post got me thinking though. I haven't really been able to let it go. What you're about it get is the rest of the story.

Okay. Here goes...

It’s easy to live in survival mode. I know. I do it. It’s easy to get stuck in the mundane of the every day or, worse yet, in the difficulties of life and end up looking down instead of forward. It’s tiring. Exhausting even. If I were to give that survival state a color, it would be grey. Tiring, dreary gray.

One of the things I’ve been struck with as we enter this Christmas season is the contrast the season brings. We wait for Christmas. We live in expectation and anticipation. As soon as Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed us, we start up the decorating, the music , the baking, and the festivities. Parents play the “how many more sleeps game” with their kids and gift givers hold onto their secret purchases to be revealed. We make plans and parties. We take time and make preparations. Let the count down to Christmas begin.

There’s something healthy, even life giving, about anticipation. There’s the hope of something better than today – even if today isn’t half bad – and exciting. We look forward. We lift up our eyes passed what we’re experiencing right now and move forward, giving us a reason to live through today.

Perhaps that’s part of the magic, the gift, of Christmas. And why shouldn’t it be? The first Christmas was rich with anticipation. Hundreds of years of promise were fulfilled with the birth of a baby in a manger. All the potential that people dreamed of hung rich in the air. The hope of a better tomorrow, even if they didn’t know what that tomorrow looked like, filled hearts and minds and kept people living in a state of anticipation.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” Isaiah 9:6-7

That sounds a lot like they were waiting for something great to me…and that was a declaration of faith made hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth!

Then there’s the events surrounding His birth.

Joseph. An angel shows up to him and tells him that the child his fiancĂ© is expecting is the Son of God, the promised one. Matthew records the encounter this way: “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you ware to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.” (Matthew 1:20-22) It gives the impression that this conversation came after Joseph found out Mary was expecting. I bet those days prior to the angel’s visit were some rough days, days filled with dread, fear, anger and resentment. Ever have one of those days? God didn’t want to leave him in that state though. He turned it around. I imagine the whole idea took a little getting used to but can only imagine the anticipation that would have entered after he understood the fullness of the angel’s words.

Mary. If you’re a mother, you understand Mary’s anticipation in a way the rest of us don’t. Nine months of preparation and anticipation. Nine months of changes. Nine months of new experiences leading to a lifetime of unknown. The movement of the child inside you. Loving the little one even before they arrive. Mary would have shared those emotions. Add an angels visit and the promise of prophecy she had waited for with her kinsmen all her fulfilled through her and one can only guess what she was feeling. We catch a glimpse of it in the book of Luke as she sings a song of praise and expectation (Luke 1:46-55). There is hope and awe in her words.

And there were others. The shepherds. The wise men. The whole of Israel waiting for the promised King, their redeemer.

Two thousand plus years later, we have the privilege of waiting in much the same way. Like Joseph, life sometimes – or most of the time – doesn’t turn out the way we want it to. It’s hard. There’s a whole range of emotions we wad through. But God doesn’t want to leave us there. He has a promise of something far better for us, wrapped up in the life of the same tiny baby, now a man, a King, Jesus.

Like Mary, we can hold to promises of what is to come. From the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, the we “wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:13)

I feel like so much of the promised return of Christ is an echo of his Christmas appearance in the human story. People waiting while living a life they didn’t plan, sometimes just surviving, anticipating the promise of a fulfillment of a promise.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I’m trying to look forward to that. To anticipate not just what could be but what will be. Waiting for Christmas and then some. We live as people who have seen a promise fulfilled – in Christ’s birth, life and death - and await the next in his resurrection.

Maybe that’s why Christmas makes me so excited. For a few weeks, I’m reminded to live in anticipation mode, a state of being full of color and life and energy, the way I truly want to live all year long. But it's hard. There's still those gray survival mode moments or even seasons.

I guess what I'm wondering now is how do I make the anticipation of Christmas and what I know to be the bigger story part of the rest of the year in those gray seasons.

Can Christmas be the start of something and not just a break from the ordinary?

No comments: