Anticipation, according to the dictionary, means “realization in advance; foretaste; expectation or hope.”
Hope is a four-letter word loaded with meaning. While the dictionary offers several definitions, the one fitting to Christ’s birth is “a person or thing in which expectations are centered.”
Approximately 700 years passed between the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 and the birth of the Christ child. Another word closely associated with anticipation and hope is the word, “wait.”
Does anyone like waiting?
Does anyone like waiting? We wait for the traffic light to turn green. In our rush, we sigh as we wait in the long check-out lines, especially at this time of year. We wait in frustration when we are put on hold and have to listen to elevator music.
The waiting time continues while we anticipate the arrival of a beloved family member or an important package in the mail. We count the days until a milestone birthday or other event.
Disliking the cold and darker days of winter, many count off the months until the arrival of spring and more daylight hours. We wait and wait and wonder.
Losing hope while waiting
I wonder how God’s people reacted to Isaiah’s words. God promised salvation would come to His people through the virgin birth. Confused. I’m sure. Hopeful. Wouldn’t you be? In anticipation of someone to rescue them. You bet.
They waited and waited. They had expected a quick answer. Through God, Isaiah’s words in Chapter 40, verse one provided comfort during the waiting time. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God…”
But, they lost hope. Understanding eluded them. Their patience ran out. Wouldn’t yours?
Patience is not something that comes easily to humans, especially in our “nuke-it” microwave world. Like a child eagerly tears the packages open on Christmas morning in anticipation of its contents, we want it now.
The real message of Christmas
Pastor Greg Laurie writes, “The real message of Christmas is not the gifts that we give to each other. Rather, it is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each of us. It is the only gift that truly keeps on giving.”
When we unwrap the gift of Jesus, we live in anticipation of His return one day. We live in hope of a kinder world, a world without hatred, a world free of strife and a world that welcomes Christ with open arms.
We can lose hope in the darkness of today’s atmosphere or we can live in the light, a Light that was heralded by God’s prophets. Jesus is that Light. He came, not only to shine on us, but through us.
As we continue to anticipate Christmas this year, let us not forget the gift from heaven, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born in a dirty stable filled with the sounds and smells of barnyard animals. While His birthplace was not fit for humans, it was the site chosen by God for the birth of a King, the Prince of Peace, and our Savior.