When I was growing up my family had a Christmas Eve tradition. We would all load up in our car and drive over to my grandparents house. My brother and sister and I would start to feel butterflies in our stomach as we pulled into the driveway. And the moment our car stopped we would run past everyone straight to the living room. Grandma wants a hug? No time. Uncle wants to crack a flatulence-related joke? Funny, but still no time.
Then we’d burst into the living room. We’d see the silhouettes of our cousins in a dark room in front of a fake, lit Christmas tree. In front of their wondering eyes was the largest pile of presents we’d ever seen. We’d burst with excitement, then… we’d sit… and wait. We had to stew in overwhelming excitement for hours. We’d eat appetizers and talk. We’d eat dinner and talk. Endless, grownup talking. And all the while, our little hearts were longing to hear our Grandpa say one simple, but powerful phrase, “let’s go open presents.”
There is something so powerful yet painful in the waiting.
Waiting builds up a tension and an inner electricity like few things can.
In church tradition there is a season called Advent. Advent is the season before the celebration of Christmas. It’s referred to as preparation or readying before the coming of Jesus.
It’s the season of expectant waiting.
Sometimes in the middle of all the insanity we call Christmas it’s hard to remember that before the coming of Jesus there was a deep and painful waiting. The people of God had been promised a messiah. They’d been promised redemption. They’d been promised a new covenant and a new king. They were waiting. The tension built. Then suddenly, the log-ago prophetic signs began to pop up. People began to hope and wonder.
Then he came. All the waiting had built to this child. All the promises of God wrapped in a manger. Then.. peace. Peace and relief after the waiting.
Believing that God is going to do something before you see it is one of the greatest tests you can endure. Waiting is painful. There is hope. Then pain. Then hope. Then pain.
Christmas is the reminder that God does what he says he will. It’s the reminder that he is in the waiting.
I wrote a poem for our church about this waiting. About the tension before that one silent night that changed everything. Let’s all pause and remember: the coming of Jesus changed everything.