The Christmas season is one of my favorite times of year, second only to fall and Thanksgiving. I love twinkling lights, frost, snow, decorations, and Christmas movies. I love the way family gets a little bit closer when gathered around the Christmas tree. I love the Christmas plays (both in and out of church) and Christmas songs. My most favorite part of all is, of course, the Christmas story.
Growing up, my family had our Christmas traditions. On Christmas Day, my dad would make breakfast. It was always either French toast or cinnamon rolls. I remember French toast more frequently, but maybe my siblings will tell a different story. He would wear his red Santa t-shirt and we would eat breakfast as a family. Before my parents woke up, my siblings and I would open our stockings together, often with the TV and Christmas movies on in the background.
After breakfast, we would sit close and listen as my dad read from Luke 2, to keep our hearts focused on the true meaning of Christmas. Then, we would rotate through everyone, opening gifts one at a time. When all the presents were opened, my mom would retreat to the kitchen to make Christmas dinner. Ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls. The menu probably varied from year to year, but these are the things I remember. Christmas was beautiful. It was a day for family and togetherness. We were a busy family. Christmas was a day that we didn’t have to be a million places at once. We didn’t have any responsibilities besides enjoying time together. It was marvelous.
But, Christmas Day wasn’t actually my favorite day. No, my favorite day was actually Christmas Eve. There is something incredibly magical about the settling in and anticipation of the day before Christmas. I love drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows and a candy cane, while sitting by the tree and watching It’s a Wonderful Life. I love feeling the relaxation sweep over the house, as we all know that tomorrow is Christmas, and tomorrow we just get to be home and be together as a family.
But it’s more than that. The anticipation of Christmas Eve is even more beautiful when you consider what we are celebrating. When we open up the word of God and look back to 2,000 years ago, we see anticipation. I love reading the first part of the Gospels. Starting from when the angel tells Mary she is miraculously with child, all the way to journey to Bethlehem. I wonder what it must have been like, to be part of this world-changing narrative. To be Mary and Joseph, traveling under orders from King Herod for the census, knowing that Mary’s time to give birth was nigh. To be the innkeeper that took this young couple in, and to be his wife who maybe helped Mary through her labor and delivery. I wonder if the innkeeper knew he was witnessing a miracle that night. If he didn’t initially, he probably did when shepherds came knocking, asking to see this special newborn baby boy.
And the shepherds! My husband and I were marveling recently at how incredible it must have been for these humble shepherds to be told by angels that the Messiah had been born! And then, a multitude of them, singing Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased (Luke 2:14). Imagine the anticipation these shepherds must have felt as they rushed into town to meet this special newborn. How wonderful that night must have been!
My favorite participants in this piece of history, however, are the wise men. They followed a unique star across the world, traveling for years, because they knew it meant something important. The waiting and exploring and seeking must have built up so much anticipation. And I am certain that when they arrived, their experience was not anticlimactic. Meeting the baby Jesus, and being able to bring him gifts must have been the most awe-inspiring experience of their lives, and worth every bit of time it took to find him.
This is what I love about the anticipation the scriptural Christmas Story brings. It is not anticlimactic, it is not a let-down. The excitement and joy that builds as you read the account leading up to the Messiah’s birth culminate in rejoicing and adoration of our God. That is why I love Christmas Eve. Anticipating the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior. The salvation of Jesus Christ is never anticlimactic, and never a let-down. It is everything you expect and more. It is the greatest gift any of us could ever receive. And the ability to be given that gift starts with the Christmas story. It starts with a tiny, humble baby, born in an inn, wrapped in grave clothes, and laid in a feeding trough as his first crib. And it ends, not with his horrific crucifixion, but rather his miraculous resurrection.
The anticipation that is Christmas Eve means even more today, in 2017. This morning, as I gather with my church family to worship, I will remember not just the birth of Christ. Tonight, as I sip my hot chocolate and my husband and I enjoy our first married Christmas Eve, I will anticipate not just the celebration of the arrival of the Messiah on earth. I will remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that made my salvation possible, and I will anticipate his imminent return and the home I have in Heaven. Today, and tomorrow we celebrate the fact that Jesus condescended to earth, humbled himself in the form of a human, experienced life on earth just as we do, encountered temptation as we do (but resisted all temptation, never once sinning), was accused and found guilty of crimes he did not commit, was cruelly put to death by crucifixion, was buried in a tomb, but on the third day rose again victorious! Conquering death, Hell, and the grave. All so our sin-debt could be covered, and we could be redeemed by the blood of Christ, giving us a home in Heaven when this life is over.
If you have not yet accepted this gift of life, I pray that this Christmas season will be your new beginning. That you will succumb to the irresistible grace of God and come to know Christ as your Savior. As always, you can contact me if you have questions about the Gospel or want to know more. My inbox and the comments are always open. I pray that if you are not in Christ, you will come to know him as your Savior. Then, you can join me in the anticipation of a home in Heaven, where our sinful, earthly bodies will be traded for resurrected bodies, and we will worship and glorify God for eternity.
Here’s to Christmas, may yours be filled with peace, blessing, and joy.
Come, let us adore Him.