We're in the home stretch! Christmas is just one week away. Children are finding it almost impossible to pay attention in school. Shoppers are flooding the stores. Friends and family are reconnecting, finalizing Christmas day plans. The spirit of celebration is building to its crescendo. But if we start celebrating too early, we might miss one of the most blessed experiences of the Christmas season: waiting.
Nowadays it seems that Christmas begins on Black Friday. We have a whole month of Christmas. But for ancient Christians, and still for many denominations today, the period leading up to Christmas was a season unto itself. The season of Advent. It is a time of waiting, a time of intense anticipation, a time of building excitement as we look forward the birth of a Savior.
This final week leading up to Christmas day can be a time for us to reflect and enter into the anticipation the Jewish people must have felt in the first century. They awaited a savior, their hearts risking a wild hope in some unknown figure. We are blessed to know His name. But we lose something of the joy of his arrival if we don't know what it meant to wait for Him. This last week before Christmas is a great time for us to enter into that first century attitude of expectation, to feel what it meant to have a longing heart, to hope for some sure sign of God's love.
We are doing a lot these days to prepare for our celebration. We are buying all the final decorations, presents, and supplies for family gatherings. But the best thing that we can do to ensure that we get the most out of this Christmas is to cultivate a longing heart. Stir up the emotions of hope and expectation, remember what it means to have a Savior by contemplating what it would feel like not to have Him yet. Then, on Christmas day, assured of His presence and love, every gift will be received with greater thanks, every morsel will taste sweeter, and every embrace will be warmer. Receiving Christmas day with a longing heart, gratitude will be the tone of every moment.