“We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway.” Those are the opening lyrics to Carly Simon’s famous tune, “Anticipation”. I have been thinking a lot about that very thing this Advent season.
As I write this it is December 24th, the last day of the Church’s celebration and observation of advent. The definition of that term being the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For those in the Church this is a time of both the arrival of a notable person and event. The event having been foretold thousands of years prior was without variation from the prophecies that described it though it stretched the bounds of probability to have been so completely fulfilled. The person involved was the son of God Most High who was sent to earth on a mission that baffled the religious scholars of the day and even into our own time.
The anticipation of the coming of Jesus prior to His birth was handled differently depending on who was involved. For Mary, a young virgin teen from a small flyover town called Nazareth, there was joy and great concern. Some might even go so far as to say that she was a bit afraid, and rightfully so for her time. For scholars and prophets there was a longing for answers. For a yet to be born baby named John there was great excitement. For the darkest forces in the heavenly realms there was most certainly dread and for the angels of the Most High there was a time of celebration.
The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Christ was a set of events to rival all events past to present. The God of all creation was not suffice to leave us in our separation from Him and sent the best of Himself to the earth to be born as a lowly flesh and blood human being so that He could ultimately take our place in death for our sins, so that we would know only life. It is the story of deliverance so amazing that the shepherds left their place in the fields to rejoice with the new parents and proclaimed it to the people around Bethlehem. It was so earth shaking that observers from far away followed the sign of a star from across a continent to worship Him. It was also so disruptive to the status quo that men feared enough to kill hundreds of children in hopes of stopping it.
This time was amazing and is rightfully remembered and revered by today’s church. However, we have an even greater advent to be celebrating and it is a celebration that should follow us each and every day. As my family gets ready to celebrate Christmas tomorrow we are remembering our soldiers who are away from us this season. We look forward to their return and long to be able to spend time with those that are away. At the same time, my mom is missing my grandmother greatly. She looks forward to the day when reunited, glorifying our King in heaven. While we anticipate these things, our friend Brian and his wife and my brother and sister-in-law are anticipating the arrivals of their new little ones. We also have friends anticipating the marriage ceremony where they will make a covenant to be forever the one for their love.
These are great events in our personal lives and deserve great anticipation. There is another aspect to anticipation though. It can be just as excruciating as it is wonderful. For instance, there are folks waiting through this holiday season to hear of a medical diagnosis that may not go their way. There are some who fret that their lost loved one will not be found and those who anticipate some impending disaster on its way. For the spiritual evils around us they can only anticipate the ultimate destruction they know will befall them and those who reject Christ.
The ultimate anticipation we have before us is the anticipation of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The time when all will be made right and joy will be abundant and pain will be no more. We can feel the groanings of our world all too well. My eleven year old son told me just yesterday how this Christmas season has felt extra contentious in his spirit even though he couldn’t put his finger on why. I explained to him the Bible’s words concerning the birth pains that will happen in our world not only physically but emotionally and mentally. Romans 8:19-23 says it best, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” This is the painful part of anticipation, but the glorious part of that anticipation is knowing.
We know in our hearts that this is not our final home. We know that there is better and we are destined to find it when Christ makes His glorious return. This is the advent that we carry in our hearts and should celebrate EVERY DAY! This is not an advent that we celebrate out of remembrance, but one that we celebrate in the true anticipation of the glory that is to come. Jesus is returning and we are guaranteed to be with Him, never experiencing the birth pains of this world ever again. Though we celebrate this season the greatest Christmas present in the namesake Himself, we can know that the greatest Christmas present is yet to come when we see Him face to face.
So, let’s try to celebrate advent every day of our lives that others might wonder at our hopeful anticipation. I pray that through us and our expression others may come to know this gospel of grace and peace. Then, the world can celebrate with us this perpetual joy of hopeful anticipation. Merry Christmas!
- Michael Ledford (Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Friend, and all around nerd)