Anticipation (part 1)

In Luke’s gospel, he records the reaction of the shepherds when they heard the news of Jesus birth,

Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

Matthew shares how the wise men reacted,

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

When’s the last time you reacted like that to a Christmas morning? Would you think less of me if I told you I’ve never responded that way?

I love the Christmas season. I particularly love Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I look forward to family gatherings, complaining about my mom’s clam chowder, opening my Christmas pajamas on the 24th, the stockings hung on the stairs, seeing the mountain of gifts eclipsing our tree, eating a few plates of ham & cheese quiche, giving and receiving presents, and enjoying a day of leisure.

According to historian, Ronald Hutton, this is exactly what Charles Dickens was hoping for when he wrote A Christmas Carol.

Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a self-centered festival of generosity, in contrast to the community-based and church-centered observations… family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive generosity of spirit.

The Christmas so many of us look forward to is the Christmas Dickens created – a time of family, food, gift giving, and spirit. These are the things we anticipate.

Anticipation is why we love Christmas so much. Anticipation is why the shepherds and wise men responded the way they did. Anticipation is what unites us, but anticipation is also what separates us.

It’s all in what we’re anticipating.

Do these lines sound familiar to you?

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots is the wish of Barney and Ben; dolls that will talk and will go for a walk is the hope of Janice and Jen; and mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again.

Sing it with me, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

How about this one?

Strings of streetlights, even stop lights blink of bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures. Hear the snow crunch. See the kids bunch. This is Santa’s big scene and above all the bustle you’ll hear…

Do you see Dickens fingerprints on those lyrics? It is what it is. Hard as we might try to do otherwise, the vast majority of us anticipate the images and ideas romanticized in A Christmas Carol.

It’s a part of our history and nostalgia, and I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. But it does provide a clue to understanding why we don’t respond the same way the shepherds and wise men did.

Story Will Continue Tomorrow…

 

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7 comments

    1. A.W. Tozer talks about this in his book, The Counselor. Sometimes we try so hard to explain everything that we forget that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts of sin and righteousness. Sometimes we can explain away the wonder, and in turn, explain away childlike faith. Sometimes it’s better to say, “I can’t explain it, God just performed a miracle.”

      Thanks for chiming in!

  1. Anticipation is more about kids than adults (IMHO). Since my kids are grown up and moved out, Christmas is more about time off work to rejuvenate, think, recenter myself.

    I must say, I miss the excitement of anticipation, but my days are full of the new goals.

    1. You’re spot on. We are simply in the thick of little kids and Christmas. “rejuvenation, thinking, etc” are near impossibilities for about 20 more years 🙂

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