Ok, I admit it. I get attached to my Christmas decorations and I put off taking them down and packing them away. Sure, part of this is my natural procrastination inclination, but mostly I just like having them out where I can see and enjoy them. They are full of memories as they are connections to Christmases past and the people who gave them to me. But there’s another reason I put off packing away my decorations.
Taking down my tree and packing away my decorations always leaves me feeling vaguely sad and somehow disappointed. It doesn’t seem to matter how many gifts I got or how great a time I had visiting with family and friends. This post-Advent let down of mine has more to do with the fact that Christmas has come and gone and the anticipation is now over. You see, the world during Advent is by definition a world made up of days filled with anticipation, with preparation, with excitement and with hope.
We wait with expectation, excitement and hope for any number of things during the month of December – the arrival of Santa, certain foods we maybe only prepare and enjoy during Advent, spending time with family members and others we don’t often see, special music we only hear at Christmas, decorating, celebrating the Advent season with others at Christmas parties, a concert, a school Christmas pageant, a candlelight church service – all part of the anticipation of Advent.
Maybe more so when we were children, but even as adults we look forward to these and other things during Advent. After all, children (of all ages?) wonder what’s in those unopened presents under the tree. We wait eagerly for the time when we are allowed to open them and find out. During this time of waiting, anything is possible, until the gifts are actually opened, thus ending the dreams of what they might be with the reality of what they actually are.
It seems like this is what happened that first Christmas. When God gave His long-promised gift, His Son, Jesus, to the world, the world suffered the first post-Advent let down. Today we may call it post holiday blues or after Christmas depression, but it’s all the same thing – the let down we experience now that the gifts have been given, the anticipation is over and the disappointment has set in.
In this post-Advent world, we are living with the let down that follows a season full of anticipation, preparation, excitement and hope, just like the people in Jesus’s day were living with their own post-Advent let down. You see, their prophets had long been promising them that God would send them a King to deliver them from the oppression they suffered at the hands of other nations, such as Rome. Consequently, they were expecting, indeed they had been anticipating for centuries a rich, powerful, educated, well-connected, royal ruler to lead them in battle against their enemies and deliver them from their current bondage.
Imagine their disappointment when the promised gift turned out to be a baby in a manger, born in obscurity to poor parents with no power or position whatsoever. Talk about your post-Advent let down. We read in John 1:10-11,
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”
They didn’t recognize Jesus as the promised gift of God which the prophets had predicted. They rejected God’s gift. Their anticipation was over. The gift had been given and they were disappointed in the gift. Now that the gift had been unwrapped, so to speak, anticipation was gone and along with it hope. Their hope had been in a promised Messiah, not in a helpless baby in a manger.
Not everyone felt this way, however. Remember Simeon? He recognized God’s gift of His Son for what it really was – the gift of eternal life, the gift that does not disappoint.
“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23)
“So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’ ” (Isaiah 28:16)
Simeon was not disappointed with God’s gift of the baby in the manger. We read his story in Luke,
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. . . . When the parents brought in the child Jesus . . . Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.’ ” (Luke 2:25-32)
Simeon did recognize and accept God’s promised gift. Simeon was not disappointed in the least. In fact, he rejoiced in God’s gift of salvation, praised Him and thanked Him that he could now die in peace. Simeon’s long anticipation was rewarded with his hope fulfilled in the gift of Jesus. He was not disappointed in Jesus, nor would Jesus disappoint him.
Now although I began this post by saying that we are living in a post-Advent world, that is not entirely true. We are between Advents. I guess that makes this an inter-Advent era? Jesus has come (first Advent), Jesus is coming back again (second Advent). So, as I stated earlier in this post, if we are living in days of Advent, then by definition these days are days filled with anticipation, with preparation, with excitement, and with hope.
Doesn’t sound like what you and I are currently experiencing? or like what we see around us in this world, does it? I wonder why? Is it that we think all the gifts have been opened, all the sweet treats eaten, all the songs have been sung and there is nothing left to anticipate, to prepare for, to get excited about or to hope for now? We couldn’t be more wrong, dear readers. Jesus promised to return, we just don’t know when that will be. I guess we find it harder to prepare for something when we don’t have a target date or a deadline to meet. (we procrastinators find deadlines particularly helpful in motivating us)
Must have been how the Israelites felt while waiting for their promised Messiah for so many centuries. It is hard to stay prepared and excited and hopeful over such a long time. But that is what we are called to do today. Every day can be a day of anticipation, preparation, excitement, (I’ll throw in joy for good measure) and hope. We do not lose hope because we have God’s promise. And hope sustains through dark days and tough times. Because Jesus promised He will return, we do have something to anticipate, to prepare ourselves for, to be excited about, to be joyful over and to hope in.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12-130
“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Lord, let my inter-Advent days be filled, each one, with Advent’s gifts of anticipation, preparation, excitement, joy and hope – yes, hope – something this world sorely needs right now – hope – one of Your many good and perfect gifts – (James 1:17)
sincerely, Grace Day