Anticipation

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The Advent season begins today, as does my gift to you, dear readers, using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of posts for each week it is celebrated. Enjoy this blessed season!

 

 

Remember waiting by the window, looking for that special someone to come up the walk? Recall the wide-eyed wonder of a child waiting for daddy to come home? The expectancy of a hope to be fulfilled carries with it a sweet impatience, a tingling of nerves and slowing of time which hold their own pleasure.

There is an expectancy of hope resonating throughout time. Can you hear it? A whisper, a murmur, a hum of anticipation beginning in a garden, rippling in a flood, rustling across a desert, then gaining volume in the voices of prophets.

Someone is coming!

Someone promised by God, a Messiah, anointed for a specific purpose, to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

Waiting for the Messiah was a centuries-long occupation for the Israelites. Their anticipation of who he would be and what he would do for them was grounded in the temporal. The New Testament Israelites particularly looked for his coming with desperate expectation, as they groaned under oppressive Roman rule.

So even with well-known prophecies of a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel, God with us, in the nondescript town of Bethlehem, they still looked for a Messiah who would arrive on the scene with great fanfare, ready to throw off the yoke of Roman domination.

If only their horizons could have stretched to what He really came to do — enrich the spiritually bankrupt, free those locked into sin, open the eyes of hearts blinded by lies; and bring liberation to souls tied up in guilty knots. His is a kingdom of the spirit, and in coming to earth for a time as a man, He taught us to anticipate the much vaster reality of eternity in heaven with Him.

Quite often what we anticipate with eagerness ends up disappointing, leaving us with unmet expectations. But with the arrival of Jesus Christ the Messiah, realization far outdistances expectation. There have been many men who have led oppressed countries to freedom, or brought enlightenment to their people trapped in ignorance, but only One in history who could liberate souls.

Could any finite human mind anticipate God coming to earth? — the great I AM growing inside a virgin‘s womb? — the Creator of the universe wrapped in the flesh of a helpless infant? The concept is beyond our scope to understand, but not beyond God’s ability.

Advent is a season of anticipation, looking forward to celebrating the wonder of God arriving on earth, a gift for all mankind. It is also a time to contemplate what you are anticipating spiritually in your growth towards the Messiah. I encourage you to share some of your contemplations with me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

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Nativity

IMG_0282I wrote this Christmas devotional for our church’s December bulletin, so thought I would give you an early start to the season. May it stir your anticipation for this most joyous celebration!

I carefully unwrap each porcelain figurine, setting them within the rustic wooden creche. A shepherd with a lamb, three wise men dressed in fine robes, a donkey, a sheep and an ox. An angel with outspread wings looks down upon Mary and Joseph gazing at the baby in a hay-filled manger. Draping a string of small white lights behind the nativity scene, I stand back to see the effect and my heart is warmed with wonder once again.

When my mother found faith in Christ later in life, she especially treasured this nativity set, now handed down to me. I remember her eyes lighting up with joy as she reverently placed each figure. She told me she liked to imagine what that night was like for those present, but she could identify best with Mary, Jesus’ mother. After all, she was a mother too and could remember in detail the birth of each of her three children.

How is it that the story of a baby boy birthed by a poor teenaged girl in an obscure middle eastern village centuries ago, has become the focus, the purpose, the joyous reason for the best-loved celebration of the year? The facts of the story are ordinary but for the baby’s miraculous conception and identity. It is this infant who sets the story apart, who has given longevity to a tale no different from many birth stories, but for His heritage.

“Nativity” means birth, or origin, especially in relation to the circumstances surrounding it. The nativity of Jesus Christ occurred in Bethlehem long ago, but His origin is without beginning. During His earthly ministry He was confronted by the Jews about who He claimed to be. “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV) They could not miss His reference to God’s own name for Himself. “God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM. This is My name forever, the name you shall call Me from generation to generation.” (Ex. 3:15)

The mystery of the incarnation will forever bewilder and fascinate. The essence of almighty God planted in the womb of a woman? Pushed into the world the same as those He created, shivering in the cold, held to His mother’s breast? I can only think about this mind-stretching concept for a short while. It is beyond me, but the actuality of God’s plan is as real as my own heartbeat. “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14 NLT)  He made His home among us! This is the essence of Christmas, the truth behind every nativity scene, the gift given with love beyond scope. Jesus Christ, God in flesh, walked this earth like you and I, died and rose again, then gave us His Spirit to dwell in our hearts, as close as our very breath.

Every year when I cradle that little porcelain baby in my hands and place it in the manger scene, Christmas hits me anew. God came, He lived with us, and He still does.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.