As I get older, Christmas becomes more about the Incarnation than Santa and all our treasured traditions. Some understandably dread Christmas. But even the most eager revelers may feel like the Santa in the picture by December 26. Personally, I’m not a fan of all that hype and excess.
Advent is supposed to be a season of hope, of waiting for our Savior. The four week build-up to Christmas is a time to ponder God’s great love for us, to look ahead to our salvation through that little Baby in Mary’s arms.
But do we really “ponder” that much on Christ’s coming? From Black Friday on, it’s off to the races to buy those gifts, send those cards, decorate the house, and bake enough cookies to put us in a state of permanent hyperglycemia.
As I listened to the pastor’s Christmas messages during Advent, I realized why I didn’t feel excited about Jesus ‘coming birth, or about celebrating it either. How can I look forward to a happening that has already happened? This magnificent birth occurred over 2000 years ago. It’s not coming, it came. Yes, we look upon it with joy and thanksgiving, but if we’re honest, the real anticipation sits in gaily wrapped packages under a tree.
Imagine being a member of the tribe of Judah a year before Christ’s coming. What if careful reading of the Scriptures, and maybe Divine intervention, made it clear God With Us would arrive in 365 days? How excited would we be knowing our salvation was so near? Then we would be wild with anticipation those four weeks that we call Advent. There would be celebrations and feasting as all the tribes made a joyful sound (ok, racket) at the coming of God Himself as a Baby.
I don’t think they would catch us in the traditional hoo-ha of today. People would share pure joy with one another. Old animosities would not matter that much as love would abound in hearts filled with anticipation.
Maybe I’m too much of a realist to look with anticipation for the day Christ will come on Christmas day. He came already. I will celebrate and give thanks because he came, not because he is coming.
Although, if I think about it, perhaps the Book of Revelation describes the next Advent for Christians. Life was cruel when Christ was born, and life will be full of tribulation when he returns. But oh! His followers will rejoice mightily when he re-enters our time, and the celebration will continue for all eternity.
It puts Christmas in perspective for me.