My oldest daughter loves routine. She loves schedules, and having plans. She needs to know what’s going to happen and when. Every morning she wakes up and looks at our calendar in the kitchen; she probably knows our schedule better than I do. A few weeks ago, she received an invitation from a friend to her birthday party. It’s in December, and I’ve yet to change over the calendar, so every day there is a question: “When is the birthday party?”
Waiting is not her favorite thing. She knows it’s going to be great, she knows she’ll get to eat pizza, and cake, and watch Toy Story 4. And she just cannot contain herself. Week one of Advent is about waiting. It is about anticipation, excitement, and something (someone) worth waiting for.
What if we all waited for Jesus’ birth like my daughter waits for birthday parties? What if we all ran to the calendar every morning to see if today would be the day? And why don’t we? My daughter is waiting for a birthday party; while very exciting in her six year old life, it pales in comparison to the waiting God’s people experienced before Jesus’ birth. And though we no longer wait for Jesus to be born, advent is about celebrating the experience of Jesus’ birth. It is about abiding in the moments that lead up to the birth of the one who saves us.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2, 6
When we wait, we are waiting for something of value, something that matters to us, or we wouldn’t wait. And in the same way, if we don’t see the value in waiting for the birth of Jesus, then are we really waiting? Are we waiting with anticipation? Do we see the value in the birth of the son and what he would eventually die for?
How often do we spend the Christmas season busy, and going through the motions? We wear the shirts that say Jesus is the reason. We say Merry Christmas, we buy presents, we spend time with family. We read the Christmas story even, and sing carols about the birth of Jesus. But do we remember what all of this is for? What are we waiting for?
For thousands of years, the punishment for sin was death, and only death. There was no other option. If we sinned, it meant God would literally wipe out people groups, or people would offer up sacrifices (death) in exchange for forgiveness of sins. How amazing it is for us, today, that we don’t have to live like that. We live in a world where we sin, and it doesn’t mean death. We sin and it doesn’t mean we need to go find a worthy sheep, and slaughter it, and offer it on an altar in an elaborate ceremony. When we sin it doesn’t mean eternal damnation.
I can be forgiven of sin in my car on the way to the grocery store. I can come to Christ at the altar at church, or I can come to Christ and ask forgiveness on my couch after yelling at my children for the hundredth time today. Christ was born so that we are free to come to Christ and be forgiven. Christ was born as a bridge to our God who really loves us and cares for us, and would rather not wipe us out in one fell swoop because we just can’t stop sinning.
And that’s why Jesus had to be born. And that’s why we celebrate Christmas. And that’s why week one of advent exists because the world was waiting for years. And we don’t have to wait any longer. The “wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” has already come. And we are living in the aftermath of that, and it is freedom. It is freedom from guilt, from shame, from death. And it is a life filled with mercy, grace, and abundance.
So this week as we inevitably begin preparing for Christmas, popping the chocolates out of advent calendars, decorating trees, and buying presents, think about what the waiting means. Think about the people who came before us and what they had to do to gain forgiveness. Thank the Lord when you think about it, and stop waiting for what’s already here. Live in the freedom of Christ this Christmas because he is worth waiting for.