Counting down to Christmas is much different as an adult than it was as a child. Every year, my grandmother would buy us a chocolate advent calendar - the kind that had a little paper door you would pry open and get a little chocolate, molded in the shape of a Christmas decoration.
Indeed, life then was sweet, as many parents will attest, as compared with the rapid pace of Christmas now. Somewhere in adulthood, the pace of Christmas quickens, and the anticipatory spirit of the holiday is exchanged for the relief of having completed the endless list of holiday obligations. The Christmas lunches, dinner and parties fill the calendar. The gift exchanges with their many spoken and unspoken expectations. The family gatherings that make you grateful Christmas comes but once a year. Sometimes, Dec. 26 can't come soon enough.
Great, you're probably thinking, another column about how we need to slow down during the holidays and realize what's important. Yes, you do need to do that, but I want to focus on something else.
For hundreds of years, the Israelites had been waiting for a Savior, a champion, someone to liberate them from oppression. They were frustrated, to put it mildly, and ached for relief. Their expectations, however, were that of a leader that would come and quell their earthly disappointments. This leader would vindicate them and restore them, they thought.
What they got - a child born to peasants - was hardly what they thought they needed, much less the man that baby grew into. He offered them peace when they wanted vengeance and eternal security rather than earthly comfort.
They were frustrated. Christmas was a bit of a letdown.
My own children will open their own little doors today with great anticipation. Their excitement will manifest itself in dozens of drawings and crafts centering on the Christmas story. They'll rearrange our nativity scene a hundred times and role play the stories they've heard from their teachers. Every day they will ask me, "Is it Christmas yet?"
I can't help but conclude that they are on to something. Rather than wallow in my frustrations, why not live in anticipation of the celebration? Why not rejoice in the birth of the Savior? Jesus came to give us life more abundant (John 10:10), to give us peace (John 16:33) and to liberate me from the consequences of my many mistakes (Luke 19:10).
Nowhere in Scripture does it tell me that he came so I could rush around, feeling frustrated in the days leading up to the celebration of his birth, then shortchanged once the holiday was over.
There will likely be dozens of opportunities to view the countdown to Christmas as a dash to the finish line, but there are more and better opportunities to rejoice in the reason for the season. You and I have just 24 days to do so.
Let the countdown begin.
Email Jamie H. Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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