Nothing slows the flow of time more than the anticipation of Christmas morning. That was the lesson I learned during my freshman year in high school. We’d gathered at Grandma’s house with my aunts, uncles, and cousins on Christmas Eve and then returned home. Per the tradition in my parent’s home, we were sent to bed around ten. I was too excited about the prospect of opening gifts in the morning to fall asleep. However, we were not to leave our room before receiving permission, so I was unable to do anything except wait more anxiously than eagerly. At five in the morning, I called out, “Has Santa Claus come yet?” That was the coded phrase we were to use to discover whether we were allowed to come out and open gifts. My mother’s reply was, “Not yet, go back to sleep.”

I couldn’t and I didn’t. I tried reading, I paced, I waited, and it felt like time was moving backward if it was moving at all. I repeated my queries after Santa’s arrival every half hour until seven when at last we were allowed to come out. I was like a racehorse at the gate ready for the race, but my baby sister was not even awake. Five intolerable minutes were spent cajoling her awake. Then at long last, we were out among the presents. Oh, the glory and the excitement! It took less than twenty minutes to open everything and then Mom and Dad went back to bed. I was tired but too enthralled with my gifts to consider going to bed.

The lesson of this experience is that when we are waiting for something we know will be very good, waiting is hard. Imagine Mary, the mother of Jesus, who knew the special nature and mission of her son waiting all those years as He grew up until He began His special ministry. Think of all that Mary wondered until the day Jesus revealed Himself publicly. We know that at the wedding in Cana of Galilee Mary asked Jesus to help with the problem of being out of wine. Jesus told her that His time had not yet come. Nevertheless, Jesus helped her and turned water into wine.

What about Joseph? He is not mentioned much after Jesus’ discussion with the teachers of the law when Jesus was about twelve or so. The belief is that Joseph’s absence during the ministry years of Jesus indicates that he’d passed away sometime prior. What did Joseph anticipate and eagerly await regarding Jesus? Was Joseph wondering how Jesus would retake the throne of David to which both Joseph and Jesus were heirs? What did Joseph think when Jesus learned the family trade of carpentry? Did he wonder if Jesus was pursuing the wrong occupation?

The point is that waiting generates questions arising from speculative anxieties. Jesus, born in a stable, laid in a manger, worshipped by angels, and visited by shepherds and sages arrived in the form of a baby. Babies take time to develop into the persons they are in potential. No one was ever born with as much potential as Jesus. So, the passage of years while Jesus grew in the nurture and admonition of the Lord must have seemed slow to those eagerly awaiting the days when His time would fully come. But when that time did come, those three ministry years must have hurriedly hastened until Jesus was crucified.

Then time cruelly made three days seem like an eternity after they laid Jesus in the tomb. What was going through Mary’s mind? But then the resurrection came, and time raced again. It wasn’t long before Jesus ascended to heaven. And now, we and all who long for His appearance wait for His promised return. That’s where we are now. When Jesus does come back, He will fulfill every promise and reach His absolute potential. Christmas teaches us both waiting and hope. Christmas calls us to wait for Jesus as children wait for Christmas morning. Christmas reminds us that God’s timing is perfect, and His gifts are amazing. It is good to greet each day with hopeful anticipation that asks, “Will Jesus come today?”

As you observe Christmas, look beyond the tree, the gifts, and the decorations, and look up for your redemption draws near. Jesus will return! Jesus is the gift we need. He is worth the wait. Are you watching and waiting or slumbering away obliviously? Be ready!

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