with great expectation

By Pastor Mark Jordan

Sunday kicked off the season of Advent…the time of preparation for the glory of Christmas. This isn’t the Christmas season (those are the 12 days from Christmas Day until the Epiphany — the day we commemorate the visit of the Wise Men on January 6), but an intentional time of spiritual reflection. We need it, and boy do we!

I noticed something this year that really gave me pause. It seemed that Christmas decorations and signs of holiday spirit started popping up even earlier than usual. I guess this is the appropriate time to confess that even our family put up our interior decorations weeks earlier than usual. We needed it. It’s hard to explain, but there are some who seem to know what I mean.

Friends, our culture is sick. Terribly. What I observe and sense in the world is a profound need for cheer, consolation, and comfort. What we need is Christmas.

I started feeling that personally as the television commercials began gracing the airwaves. In the past, I would have been agitated about this, but not this year; rather, I found myself pausing to take in the sights and sounds. Our Halloween decorations were still out, but Christmas music started emerging in my constant humming and whistling. Even Mia seemed to embrace it as we sang the chorus of “The First Nöel” as our dinner blessing one night. I winced in the past as Christmas seemed to encroach onto Thanksgiving, but this year I found myself wishing for it. Note: this is not to supplant Thanksgiving, but to supplement it…with great expectation for the greatest reason to be thankful.

I am more thankful this year for my life, for my family, and for my faith than I can remember feeling in a long time. In the midst of that thankfulness, I ache for how sick the world feels, knowing it needs Jesus. We read in Galatians 4:4 that, “when the right time came, God sent his Son….” And it wasn’t just that He sent Jesus, but Jesus was Immanuel, meaning, “God with us.” It happened at just the right time then, and seems to come at just the right time now.

We need God with us, don’t we? Christmas is that annual celebration that He is here. He is. Cynics might be inclined to say God isn’t here, but I don’t see it that way. Not at all; in fact, I believe the pull many have felt toward Christmas this year is a sign of a hope deep within that comes with the cheer, consolation, and comfort of Christmas…that unique season where everything looks, smells, sounds, and even tastes differently from the rest of the year.

My gut tells me that God is beckoning us to Christmas, and has been; but, perhaps He always is. Beyond reindeer, egg nog, and jolly elves, God calls us to the place where He made His presence known in the humblest of ways. It was dark in the wee hours of the morning. The world was violent and chaos seemed to reign. Yet, the cry of a baby boy pierced the silence of despair to prove that victory had come…the victory of hope, peace, love, and joy.

Friends, that victory still comes! It comes when we need it most, and I sense we need it now. As the old song says, “for we need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” God still comes at just the right time. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. Let it change you and change the way you engage our lost and lonely world.

Prayer: Dear God, may this season remind us of our need to celebrate your presence with me and all of us. May we feel your call to the manger more powerfully than we have ever before. Help us change the way we see you in the world, this day and forever more. I pray this in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

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