Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice! Blessed are all who wait for Him! Isaiah 30:18
My most vivid memory of a childhood Christmas occurred in 1969 when I was 8 years old. I distinctly remember standing in front of the large picture window in our living room and looking out over the front lawn covered in pristine snow while tears of self-pity streamed down my cheeks. Though the beautifully decorated Christmas tree was to my right, and the opened presents were strewn lovingly around the room, all I could see was that Santa had forgotten me. The Easy-Bake-Oven I had coveted, prayed for—and painstakingly outlined my need for in a North Pole letter—had not materialized. I was crushed.
Christmas 2019 is less than two weeks away, and I am as excited as a kid in a toy store—not because I anticipate any particular gift under the tree, but because I am looking forward to hosting friends and family at my home on Christmas day. My tree is decorated and displayed prominently in the front window. The manger is set on the mantle surrounded by candles and evergreen branches. And various Christmas decorations, like angels and nutcrackers, have been set in every room of the house. I am waiting in great anticipation for December 25.
And that is what the season of Advent is about. The waiting. The early Christians expected Jesus to return immediately to claim dominion over the world. But He didn’t. Jesus warned his followers in Matthew 24:42, Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Waiting for them turned from months into years and, eventually, into centuries. Now here we are, 2000 years after the birth of Christ, still waiting!!
If we are honest with ourselves, waiting is a gift. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5 that we should rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. I think the same can be said about waiting.
Back to that fateful Christmas of 1969… I didn’t know then what I know now. Purchasing an Easy-Bake-Oven for me would have been no easy task for my mother. Not only was she grieving the deaths of her parents who had passed within four months of each other, she was suffering alongside her youngest son who was losing his battle with cancer. That April, my brother Jeffrey passed away, and a dark cloud settled in our hearts and home. 1970 became a year of pain and perseverance, of transformation and growth. This serves as a reminder to me that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)
Christmas is not necessarily a joyful celebration for those who are grieving, depressed, in pain, or lonely. But I have come to realize that for those of us who live in Christ there is always hope in the waiting. Though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:32) And that is my prayer for each one of you this holiday season. May you rest in the assurance that you are loved and will one day stand in glory with our risen Savior.
In case you were wondering, I got my coveted Easy-Bake-Oven the following year, and I wore that thing out! To be honest, I think I was better equipped to use the device at age 9 than I would have been at age 8. I know without a doubt that my mother was better equipped to assist me than she would have been the year before.
My mother’s love resurfaced when she purchased me a “new” Easy-Bake-Oven in 1999. By then I had graduated to a real oven, but her gift served as a sign to me that she understood the pain I had experienced as a child and wanted me to know that she had suffered along with me. Truly, there is joy in the waiting.
Merry Christmas everyone, and keep straining forward!