5 days past, but still worthwhile: Christmas is Anticipation.
Christmas calls us back to the historical, biblical accounts of waiting, longing, and expecting. A true understanding of Christmas stirs within us the kind of faith that anticipates – the kind of faith that sits at the edge of your seat, waiting for something to happen.
The biblical accounts span a wide range of time, roughly about 2500 years. Whole books within the Old Testament by themselves cover hundreds of years of history. The book of Joshua for example covers over 250 years of history. We can read in a matter of moments what literally took decades, even centuries, to actually unfold.
And I think at times this can give us a false perception of the longitudinal, historical narrative of God. For us living in the 21st century, I think we misinterpret this definition of Christmas by applying our cultural overtones of instant gratification upon our faith. We want to believe that faith is instantaneous, don’t we? Pray and then POOF! Expect God to do something!
But that kind of instant feedback rarely happens, doesn’t it? Faith is more like a slow cooker. And that reality can be a hard one for us to swallow.
This idea of waiting flies against the patterns of our culture that prescribe to individualism and to a ‘right now’ kind of mentality. God, I need what I need right now!
Perhaps, a better and more faithful way to interpret the history and traditions of our faith is through the lens of waiting and anticipation.
What if we thought about God this way: in the Bible, we witness God acting gradually, but intentionally, over 6 major movements throughout history.
The first movement we observe from God is God dreaming and imagining and creating and setting into motion the universe and all within it, including us, humanity. According to Genesis 1 and 2, God is pleased with he created, especially with humanity. God takes great delight in his perfect, harmonious relationship with Adam and Eve – more so as we’re told than anything else that God created. Creation is the first movement of God.
The second major movement that we observe from God is God remaining faithful to Adam and Eve, despite their disobedience to him. Genesis chapters 3-11 describe our shadow side as human beings. In Genesis 3, it wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve to be created in the image and likeness of God – as amazing as that is in and of itself!
Rather, Adam and Eve want to actually be God, right? They want God’s power. They want God’s control. The serpent says in Genesis 3:5, “God knows your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat the fruit, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Think about the areas of sin and disobedience in your life. At their root lay power and control.
Adam and Eve’s story represents our story. At some point in our lives, we wanted to be our own god and live with the glory and honor and worship that belongs only to God.
As a result, we’ve irreparably harmed our relationship with God. This is the substance of our broken relationship with God. Not some fruit. But that we wanted to take God’s place. And by doing so, we harmed our relationship with him so much that we couldn’t do anything to repair it.
The good news: God didn’t abandon us!
In the third major movement that we observe from God in history, God chose in freedom not to uphold his right to condemn us.
Rather, in Genesis chapter 12, beginning with Abraham and Sarah and going all he way through the end of the Old Testament, we read about God stopping short at nothing to restore our broken relationship with God.
In fact, as soon as Adam and Eve realized that they were naked in Genesis chapter 3, the Bible records that God sacrificed a ram and made clothes for Adam and Eve… so that they would not live in shame with what they had done.
This is the first glimpse of God not letting us go. God doesn’t guilt us. Instead God makes a sacrifice for Adam and Eve to make things right… a clear foreshadow for what’s ultimately to come several millennia later.
God doesn’t give up on us.
And ultimately, the sacrifice that God made for Adam and Eve to provide them with clothing all comes to fruition thousands of years in our observation of the 4th major movement of God in our world...
It is the climax and crescendo of God’s movement in humanity. We read in the Gospels that God entered fully into our world as a human being – the incarnate Son of God – or as I like to say God in a Bod – as a little baby boy, laying in a manger, a simple feeding trough, in a small agricultural town called Bethlehem.
We broke what God wanted so much for us, a perfect relationship. But yet, in total grace, God entered fully into our human predicament of pain and uncertainty on that Christmas morning some 2,000 years ago, and he set into motion the events that would restore our relationship with him. The event of Jesus’ humble birth into our world announced the onset of redemption for those who believe.
Christmas celebrates an event that literally culminated over thousands of years of history. What you may perceive from God at times as slow, distant, or still is in actuality the intentional working out of God’s grace upon you. Scripture tells us about a God who is active and alive.
Within the scope of God’s timeframe, his movement in both our world and our lives occurs at exactly the right appointed time. And what we know now – on this side of the first Christmas – is that God didn’t lose interest in his people, and God hasn’t lost interest in you and me.
Christmas is a reminder that your faith in God is not misplaced. At times, it may seem like God has forgotten you, and that your faith is archaic and obsolete. But the final chapter has not yet been written. Christmas is about anticipating the movement of God, and God has certainly proven through the life of Jesus that you are worth everything to him!
QUESTION: Do you believe that God is for you? What are you anticipating God to do in your life in 2014?