Saturday, December 6, 2008

Anticipating Christmas

The advent season is all about anticipation. It is the one time of year when we celebrate waiting. No, I don't mean waiting in long lines at department stores or waiting to cut off a red mini-van and a green sedan in an attempt to snag the last parking spot within a half-mile of the mall. I'm not talking about waiting for all the good things that come on Christmas morning: piles of presents, sugary pastries, and candy-filled stockings. (Though the pastries are especially worth waiting for.)

Each year we wait symbolically for the baby Jesus to make his grand entry into replica mangers placed carefully below high voltage stars. We sing the songs the angels sang and read the familiar story many times over. We try not to think too long or too hard about Mary and her ordeal in the barn. Like the shepherds, we always find the baby born, wrapped, and glowing. This is how babies should be found.

If Christmas is all about celebrating God's gift of his son, then Advent is about anticipating that gift. We wait expectantly, eagerly. Three weekends ago we put up our tree and twinkly lights and Christmas decorations. Caleb helped me unwrap each of the nativity pieces. The paper has been wound and unwound so many times that it is soft, almost like fabric. He was remarkably careful for a three-year-old. Each time he uncovered a new piece he would squeal with delight, "Mama, it's a shepherd!" "Look, Mama, it's the angel!" "Ohhhhh, it's a chicken!!!" He took the whole entourage to bed with him for several nights (the figurines are made of plastic), and we could hear him making up songs for each character. My favorite went something like this...

The shepherd came.
Oh-whoa, Baby Jesus,
Baby Jesus you peed in your bed.
Oh-whoa, Baby Jesus.

(I love Caleb's enthusiasm...and his theology. Yes, Jesus was fully God AND fully man. None of this "No crying he makes" business.)

As we anticipate Christmas, I find myself thinking about Christ's next coming. After all, isn't Advent a concentrated version of the Christian life. We are waiting for Christ to return again and for God to "wipe away every tear" and for "death to be no more" (Revelation 21). In the meantime, we celebrate; we obey; we try to remain faithful. This is why Advent and Christmas are so important to our family. It is a once-a-year reminder of what we're all about...waiting. Caleb obviously doesn't need any encouragement to enjoy the season, but I've been trying to find ways to help the rest of us anticipate Christ during Advent. What does your family do to celebrate and remember? I'd love to get some fresh ideas.

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