“But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)
If you’ve been around since the 1970’s, you may remember the well-known commercial about a ketchup product that was slow to come out of the bottle. Because they insisted their brand was thicker and richer than their competitor, marketers used the slogan “the taste that is worth the wait.” They even paired videos of their ‘slow ketchup’ overlapped with a soundtrack featuring a verse from the Carly Simon song, “Anticipation.” The saga ended decades later when the same company invented the upside-down ketchup bottle. In new promotions, a revised version of the song was interrupted by the sound of ketchup easily pouring out after a simple squeeze. The announcer says, “Tired of waiting? No wait, no mess, no fuss, no anticipation.” Christians often become like the impatient ketchup users. They get tired of waiting on God for answers to their prayers, and they sometimes fail to anticipate Christmas for the right reasons.
These days children have barely put away their Halloween costumes until decorated trees and images of Santa have occupied most of the many chain store outlets. I have noticed in my own neighborhood that way before Thanksgiving, one family had so overpopulated their yard with those inflatable Christmas character that the small nativity scene toward the rear of the property has become somewhat lost in the shuffle. By the time the season of Advent arrives, Christmas has been so commercially over-exposed that most of the joy of its anticipation has been greatly diminished. But imagine what it might have been like thousands of years ago when children were told a story that carried an anticipation never before experienced. Instead of the Night Before Christmas, one can envision parents sitting with their little ones gathered around the fire reading to them from the Book of Isaiah: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
From the time we first hear of those prophecies of the coming Messiah, it was many centuries until the Christ-child was actually born. As the time grew near, there was an aged man in Jerusalem by the name of Simeon, described by Luke as “just and devout.” Having received the promise of the Lord that he would not die until he had seen the Savior, he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to go to the temple. When the parents and the child entered the temple—Mary for the ritual of cleansing and Joseph to pay the tax necessary to redeem the firstborn from priestly service—Simeon took the child in his arms. He then spoke these words: “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Simeon’s declaration reached far beyond the understanding and hope of those of his nation, for he saw the universal nature of Christ’s ministry. He bore witness that Jesus was Savior to Jew and Gentile alike.
With great expectation, children still awake on Christmas Day anxious to find out what gifts they’ve received. As Christians, that’s how we should be… like children in anticipation! Just because Jesus has already come doesn’t mean the anticipation should end. A gift has indeed come our way – the best in all of human history. So, anticipate and celebrate that wonderful gift of the Christ-child. Don’t become preoccupied and allow it to get buried underneath all the packages and tree trimmings. Open your eyes, and prepare your heart. Ultimately, anticipating Christmas relies on the memories and the excitement of past Christmases. Each new year, we remember Jesus’ birth, knowing what He has already done for us. Why not begin today, equipped with renewed enthusiasm for the hope of that newborn King? With the promise of His return one day, we can anticipate that another miracle awaits . . . for He is coming.
REFLECTION: Do you find yourself obsessed about your time here on earth, or are you joyfully anticipating seeing him face to face? How do you properly anticipate and appreciate the real reason for the season, the birth of our Lord? What could it mean to take a few weeks to spend some time with Him, preparing your heart and your mind for this great gift of Christmas and the long-awaited Savior of all mankind?