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Anticipating Christmas

I know Christmas is approaching because I saw Santa the other day sporting a red jogging suit.  I passed him a few times lately in that red jogging suit with his long, white Santa beard and his warm Santa smile.  He even said “hello” to me as I circled the track he was walking around. I guess even Santa knows he needs to exercise and burn a few calories as he anticipates the extra pounds the holidays can bring.
All the signs of Christmas are here, surrounding and sometimes even smothering and overwhelming me. The gentle pauses and reminders help me, though, to find Christ in Christmas. During this time, I desire to prepare, enjoy, and even wait well as Christmas beckons me forward.

Silence Broken

Anticipation. Waiting. Can you imagine waiting years, well even hundreds of years, for the fulfillment of a promise? Maybe you can imagine longing and watching, but only finding silence. There were 400 years of silence, from the last of the Old Testament until Christ appeared. During this time, the people of Israel did not hear from God. The anticipation was great. The scriptures and prophets long before, spoke and pointed to Christmas. They announced that the Christ would come, bridge God and man, and He would be with us. Looking. Waiting. Anticipating.

I like to think there was waiting and anticipation in heaven as well. Imagine what heaven was like when God commissioned the angel Gabriel and said that it was time.  It was time for the anticipation to end. It was time for the silence to be broken. It was time for God to come and dwell among men. Can you imagine the excitement, as the angelic world looked on and Gabriel took on the mission to break the silence? Do you suppose there was a hush in heaven when Gabriel went forward? I imagine a total quiet as Gabriel stood before Zacharias announcing the forerunner of the Messiah.

“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1:19)

I envision a complete hush in heaven as they waited for Mary’s answer.

 “And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Was there quiet listening when Joseph awoke from his dream, or a stillness and wondering of what he would do?

“…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Now this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son they shall call his name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:20-23)

The light breaks into the darkness. The angelic voices fill the air around the Shepherds. The long awaited Christ enters with a cry–the cry of a baby.

God with us

God would dwell among men and women. God would be present. If I knew that God was actually coming and personally going to live among the people on earth, what great hope and expectation there would be. How would I prepare? How would I wait? He is not an uninvolved, distant God, but very personal–coming to reside and dwell on earth with us.

God came to be with us, carrying a burden–to “save His people from their sins.” The light came to shine in a dark and broken world. Walking full of grace and truth among the people, He revealed His Father, pointing to Him and sharing what He is like. “God with us” bore our sins. Amazing, the same baby beginning with a cry, would also end with a cry to His Father. Did Christ anticipate these cries–the cry of humility and the cry of taking on our shame?

He is with me. Now, He promises to dwell with me–His Spirit making its home in me. Pondering, God is with me, seems to give life richness and new meaning. The creator of the universe is with me and in control.  His love and forgiveness is with me, and can flow from me. I can walk by faith and trust Him, for He goes leading and preparing the way. He will not let me go. What hope I have! “God with us” gives a story to tell and share. Doesn’t everyone want and need love, forgiveness, compassion, peace, and hope? God with us changes us and the people around us. There is hope.

He will come again to be with us. There is still much anticipation and hope to spend. There are things to watch for and expect. God is not far off, but an active God, personally at work, giving meaning to the life we live. In the meantime, He overflows in us and from us. He is “Immanuel.” “God with us.” There is also much to await, for He will come again to make all things right. He will restore all things, bringing complete redemption. The time will come. We watch and wait.  This time, His cry will be a shout of His coming as King. God will be with us forever.

Days of anticipation and hope

*Calendar – You can still count down the days until Christmas.  Each day reflect on a different aspect of the Christmas story.
*Advent wreath – Gather with friends and family to light a candle the four Sundays before Christmas.  Maybe you have only two Sundays left; you can still take time for this. As you light a candle, reflect on Jesus as the light of the world. Turn off all the lights except the Christmas lights and think about God with us coming into the world.

*Sing and reflect on these words:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
Oh, come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel