What are we expecting for Christmas? I’ve been disappointed to realize that I still have a sort of emptiness after Christmas Day, when the luster of the new things I’ve received has worn off. It’s an immaturity that reminds me of childhood. My children do what I did as a child – pile all their presents in a special place in the living room and keep a tally of how many they received. But I still do this to some extent and it saddens me.
This Christmas season I began (amidst all the chaos of shopping and planning that must be done) to think about how people reacted to Jesus’ birth and why they were filled with such joy. It seems I would know this already since I’ve heard the Christmas story umpteen times. But have I really pondered why, for instance, Simeon and Anna were so full of joy when they witnessed the Messiah? Have I thought about Zechariah and the meaning of John’s birth?
The prophets of the Old Testament and other faithful God fearers lived for hundreds of years in expectation. Of what though? The Messiah, of course, but what did that mean specifically for their lives? Those descendants of Abraham realized, by faith, that all the sacrifices in the world could not make them clean. Month after month and year after year they would offer sacrifices and keep careful account of their lives. It was a constant cycle that never seemed to end. And there were only a select few who ever experienced God speaking to them or the Holy Spirit descending upon them. Wasn’t there something more? Then between Malachi and Matthew there was silence, hundreds of years of prophetic silence. The faithful handed down the promises to another generation and they waited.
What kept them waiting? Why were they so expectant?
They weren’t just waiting for a new King or, like us, some Christmas present wrapped up in bows. They were waiting for a Savior! The One who would save His people from their sins! Isn’t that worth waiting for? Wouldn’t that cause someone to strain and look with the eyes of faith?
As C.S. Lewis once said, “We are far too easily pleased.” This is why I’ve been disappointed with Christmas. I am expecting material things to satisfy me when my soul hunger can only be satisfied with Him.
My problem or, if you will, disease, like all of humanity, is sin, and one more present cannot bring healing. But the Savior can. As Malachi said, “He will arise with healing in His wings.” And He did. He was born as one of us to save us.
This Christmas I can spend my time pondering, like Mary, what it was like for Anna and Simeon and everyone else to behold their Savior in flesh and blood, to realize that all the promises and prophecies were about to be fulfilled and freedom was about to dawn.
This will bring joy, deep joy that cannot be taken away.