Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the difference between anticipation and celebration. We as a society are particularly bad at being patient. Black Friday, which is in many ways a celebration of impatience, starts on Thanksgiving Thursday. Gender reveal parties for an unborn child can have more theatrics than any birthday party I have ever been to. Did you know you can order a book on Amazon, and instead of waiting two long days for the post office to deliver it, you can immediately read the first chapter in digital form? Waiting is for suckers.
Nobody likes to wait around. It’s uncomfortable. There are a lot of uneasy emotions tied up in a long delay. Even if what you are expecting is a sure thing, that little voice of doubt might creep into your thoughts. Or maybe you are in immense pain and quite literally have to watch the clock until the nurse comes with your next round medication. It can be so easy to fast forward to the good part where pain and doubt and despair are a distant memory.
For what other reason do so many people emblazon their homes with light in the darkest month of the year as we await the coming of Christmas? We don’t like to think about how cold it is, or how little sun there is. Anticipation, then, is all but replaced with a months-long celebration, not meant to dispel the darkness but to ignore it even exists.
While I’m not about to grinch away your Christmas lights, I do think we Christians need to pay attention to those negative feelings we can be so good at covering up. That, really, is what the season of Advent is all about. It’s an entire month designed, not simply to celebrate that Jesus is coming soon, but to name exactly why we need God here in the first place. We are broken, grief lingers, and we yearn for a light to shine in the darkness. In our worship, we cry out for Jesus to come quickly to save us as we hear Mary sing about God lifting up the lowly.
Because the truth is, no matter how much we as a society try to avoid discomfort, it doesn’t go away. Why else does Christmas, a holiday about the one who comes to save us from all our despair, bring so much stress over money and time, and feelings that whatever you do, it won’t be enough? Why does it make some of us so sad?
If you are feeling the holiday pressure, or even if you are not, save the celebration for another day. Remember that you are not responsible for the birth of Jesus. Whatever grief or pressure you feel now can only be lifted by the one who is coming soon to save us. But, as composer Paul Manz once wrote: “E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come, and night shall be no more; they need no light nor lamp nor sun, For Christ will be their all.”
Pastor Chad McKenna