Do you remember those Christmas Eve nights when you were a child, trying to get to sleep as you lay on your bed so excited about the next day? For many of us these were nights of great excitement and anticipation. You knew tomorrow was Christmas day, which meant presents, food, family, excitement and celebration. You knew that very soon you would wake up and it would all begin. You knew that if you could just rest enough to drop off to sleep then suddenly it would all be here, in a flash. This is the feeling of hopeful anticipation.
Hopeful anticipation is knowing that something is coming and yet it is not here yet. Something is promised and yet we haven’t seen the reality of it. Something is just around the corner and yet it is not yet in view.
For thousands of years the Jewish people had awaited a Messiah, the One who had been promised to end the oppression and suffering of Israel. There had been prophesies about what this Messiah would be like, what He would do, where He would be born, and how He would rule. When Jesus was presented in the Temple as a child there was a man named Simeon who had received a promise that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. When he held Jesus in his arms he said;
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation…” Luke 2 v 29-30
He had waited his whole life in anticipation of the salvation of Israel, and now, in his arms lay a child, the long awaited reality of that hope and promise.
Recognising Advent allows us to re-enter that hopeful anticipation. Throughout the month of December we can remind ourselves of how Israel waited so long for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Throughout the generations they had carried this hope, trusting that God’s promise would be fulfilled, and yet it seemed to take so long (remember how long those Christmas Eve nights felt!). But the promise was fulfilled, Christ did come, and the freedom He brought was even greater than anyone could have imagined, not just the salvation of Israel but the salvation of mankind!
And we too are still in hopeful anticipation. Though Christ has come in the flesh we still long for Him to come more presently in our hearts every day, to know the closeness of a walk with our saviour and for our lives to be transformed from the inside out. We are also reminded that the comings of Christ are not over. In fact we still wait, with hopeful anticipation, for the day when Christ will return. When every tear will be wiped away and war will cease, when creation will be made fully anew. What a glorious day this will be!
As we celebrate Advent may we remind ourselves that no matter how dark things become, no matter how broken our world is, no matter how long the wait Christ will come.
“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” Rev 21 v 5
May we wait with hopeful anticipation for the coming of Christ this Christmas.
Don’t forget our Advent Launch Night on Friday 30th November, 7.00pm at ACC. This will be an opportunity to spend an evening in reflection, prayer and worship as we begin our build up to Christmas.