People don’t really wait for Christmas anymore. My almost nine year old daughter Ella and I were in Wal-Mart on September 23rd and found a dancing animatronic Santa Claus. We were both amazed that Santa made an appearance so early in the year, of course, Ella was thrilled. Christmas can’t come early enough for her. I think a lot of us are like Ella, we don’t really want to wait for Christmas. To be honest, I’m kind of the same way. I think we typically interpret this impatience as a bad thing, but I think there’s a good reason we don’t really want to wait for Christmas. When the world is beset by adversarial political campaigns, devastating natural disasters, and so many dealing with illness and disease who can blame anyone who is longing for some Christmas magic. I think our nation is longing for this together. Christmas music, Christmas movies, and Christmas decorations seem to come out earlier and earlier. We don’t really want to wait for Christmas.
Of course our only choice is to wait. No matter when I start wearing my new Christmas socks, or when our Christmas tree is lit, Christmas still comes only on December 25th. My daughter Ella, about the first of October wished that the next day be Halloween, then the next day Thanksgiving, the next day her birthday, and finally, to end the week have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My mom called that “wishing your life away.” No matter how much we wish, however, Christmas doesn’t come any sooner. So, we wait. The church has a special name for this season of waiting: Advent. This season recalls the long, often impatient wait of God’s people who longed for a savior. The word Advent means beginning and marks the beginning of the Christian calendar year. Christians begin their year with waiting. Like the Israelites we practice waiting with expectant hope.
At its best I think that’s what waiting for Christmas means: waiting with expectant hope. To be honest, I kind of like that much of the country can’t wait for Christmas to come. It’s a sign that everyone, even all creation, is groaning for something more and something better. Christmas is the day we celebrate the fact that God has heard the cries of our hearts and has given us a gift greater than we could ever imagine. During the weeks leading up to Christmas Pastor Jean, Pastor Jeremy, and I will be talking about Waiting for Christmas. Particularly we’re going to look at waiting for Christmas through the eyes of Elizabeth, Mary, Anna, and the many unnamed women who were longing for a savior. These women play a vital role in the story of Christmas, and their witness of faith in their waiting is inspirational.
By now the Christmas police have given you their full permission to deck your halls with boughs of holly. For some of us, our manger scenes will have been out for so long it may be time to dust them. Others of us may still be trying to find where we stored our ornaments. No matter how you’ve waited for Christmas, I pray that as you wait now, you wait with expectant hope. Jesus has come and is coming and for these reasons we have hope even in the midst of our broken world. As you know our church has so many special things going on this month : unique services, wonderful concerts, meals, studies, and gatherings all designed to help you wait with expectant hope. I hope you’ll take advantage of these opportunities and invite others to join you. I especially hope you’ll join us on Christmas Eve for one of our candlelight communion services, or if you’re out of town, that you will worship wherever you are. May God bless you as we all are Waiting for Christmas.