It happens earlier every year. As soon as we get done with our July 4th celebrations, out comes the Christmas paraphernalia. Ok, this may be an over exaggeration. Maybe it’s after Labor Day. Or Columbus Day.
Regardless, it’s EARLY.
And every year I will be one of the first people to complain about it. I just can’t understand our desire to rush past the time we’re in and bring in another that will get here soon enough. It’s difficult to drum up some Christmas spirit when it’s 85° & sunny outside. (I know — I’m getting cranky and set in my ways as I get older.)
This past Sunday, though, I found myself going into the garage and pulling out the Christmas tree and the 83 boxes of Christmas decorations we have stored there (that may be another exaggeration). And I’m certain I did it with at least a small amount of crankiness. At least we waited until after Thanksgiving.
And then I watched my son.
With all of the stuff inside, Staci set off making our house look festive. Ethan could not wait. He was buzzing (and that’s literal — I think he was physically vibrating) with excitement. He wanted to open the boxes and take all of the decorations out. As they went to place ornaments on the tree he would recall memories of when we got this one or ask questions about when he made that one in school. He said decorating the tree was his second favorite part of Christmas (behind opening presents, of course). It’s hard to be cranky when someone is experiencing such pure joy.
Sometimes I need to experience the world through the eyes of my kids to remind me of what life is really all about.
And despite my grouchiness, it reminded me why Christmas has become more than a day, but a season for us. So much of it is about he buildup. It’s seeing Santa at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s watching A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer together while sipping on hot chocolate. Or lighting the Advent wreath. Or waking up and seeing what mischievous deed your Elf on the Shelf committed during the night.
It’s the anticipation of the season that makes it so wonderful. That’s why we try to extend it out so much. The waiting is as much fun as the day.
In Romans 8, Paul is talking about the world and the condition we find ourselves in. He says this:
For we know that all creation groans in unison with birthing pains up until now. And there is more; it’s not just creation—all of us are groaning together too. Though we have already tasted the firstfruits of the Spirit, we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete— for we have been saved in this hope and for this future. But hope does not involve what we already have or see. For who goes around hoping for what he already has? But if we wait expectantly for things we have never seen, then we hope with true perseverance and eager anticipation. Romans 8:22-25 (The Voice)
I love this picture. As if all of creation is groaning, anticipating the great redemption that God has promised. And all of us are groaning too, waiting for an existence of greater love and joy and peace.
Now, I don’t like to wait. I’m not sure that anyone really does. I’m as impatient as the next person in line at the grocery store or sitting at the red light. So at first this picture doesn’t sound all that attractive.
But I love what he says it produces. We have been saved in this hope and for this future. We don’t yet have what we long for, but we wait with perseverance and eager anticipation.
The waiting brings anticipation.
The anticipation brings hope.
And hope has the ability to change us.
Ever notice how people treat one another during the holiday season? It’s as if we look at one another a little differently. We act with more understanding and patience. We feel connected to one another in a way we don’t the rest of the year.
Simply hoping the world is better than it is changes the way we interact with one another.
This is why Advent and anticipation of the Christmas season are so important. We focus on a promise of a better world, a kingdom where love and peace and joy reign. The world God intended. The world God has promised to restore. The world that Jesus makes possible.
That anticipation builds hope. And that hope changes the way we see the world and everyone in it. That hope encourages us to make redemption a reality by loving others more deeply and treating one another more graciously.
Advent is us groaning together for the world we want rather than the one we have. It’s us hoping that that world we have been promised is possible.
So I encourage you to be like my son. Dive into the waiting and anticipation of the season. Be overcome with the joy and peace and love as we move toward Christmas.
And may the hope of a better world change you in a way only hope can.