Each week, four leading up to Christmas, we pause to remember the birth of our Savior. In some households a candle is lit for each of the advent themes. These days we live aboard a boat, so instead we will “turn on” a flameless candle as we consider the first advent theme, HOPE.
I errantly thought my family was normal growing up. The first hint that perhaps, just perhaps, we were not normal took place my first Christmas with the hubby and his family. You see, in my family, gift giving came hand in hand with an intense build of expectation. Great care and effort went into camouflaging each gift below our tree. My sister and I would shake and examine each box with our name for days leading up to the grand opening. My sister was particularly good at guessing what hid beneath mom’s elaborate ribbons and bows. My mom took pride in being able to fool us. A box that rattled when shook could be a toy, but it could also be a sweater with a bag of dried beans. A large box could contain a much smaller gift and a small box could hold a note telling us to look in the garage for a bigger item. We loved this guessing game. Having expectations and laughing at our surprise with each opened gift was part of Christmas.
I was traveling with my then fiancé to have Christmas with his mom and sister. I had gotten my betrothed a sports jacket, complete with stylish elbow patches.(this was the 80’s after all) I assumed he would try valiantly to guess what I’d gotten him…so I rolled it up tightly, placed in an extra-long and narrow box and added a brick in the bottom of the box to really throw him off. I was significantly pleased with myself. When it came time to load up the car he unceremoniously heaved it into the vehicle with the rest of our things. We toted that heavy, awkward box from Florida to Virginia and he never tried to guess its contents, not once!
No doubt he, and my future in-laws, were perplexed when at last he opened the gift. Oh, he loved the jacket, but he could not PHATHOM why I used an outsized box and included a brick. They were kind, not judgmental, but it was hard to miss the head tilt that accompanies confusion…and that friends was the first of many times we would discover our differences over 36yrs of marriage.
As a child, my Christmases were filled with expectations culminating in the “big reveal” on Christmas day. I was never disappointed. I may have been surprised by the contents, but I was always delighted with the gifts. This year as I look forward to the celebration of the birth of Christ, I am thinking of expectations.
God’s people were waiting for help. Prophecy had told of the arrival of one who would save them all. They had expectations. They waited for a Messiah to save them from their enemies, yet ultimately man’s greatest enemy is sin. While many looked for a worldly savior, God sent His son to be the savior of the world. How confusing it must have been when their hope for salvation did not arrive wrapped in triumphant pageantry, political powers or leading a mighty army. Instead, this gift came wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger, devoid of so much as a bow. The packaging may have been unexpected, but the gift exceeded the expectations of man.
We may be tempted to set our expectation and hope in the pretty packaging of things/people, but salvation does not come from the world. Salvation came TO the world in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. He is our HOPE, our expectation, assurance of forgiveness, peace in chaos, comfort amidst stiving and joy even as sorrow flows. This week as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ…
“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13