Four days from now I have my neck surgery. You can't believe the number of appointments I've had in preparation for it. Lab work, an EKG, a training session, Physical Therapy, Medical Screening. I'm no stranger to surgery but I've never been through anything like this before. All of it designed to make me more comfortable, but all of it could make a person more UNeasy. There's just so much of it. The preparation is a full-time job right now.
But it aligns perfectly with Advent, I think. A season of waiting.
Of preparation, planning, and praying.
But mostly of waiting. The period in which we contemplate the coming of the Christ. And in our waiting--for these short days--we experience in short what the people of God did for centuries. From the moment in the Garden in Eden when God told the enemy that "He will crush your head..." the true people of God were anticipating the Messiah. They didn't know what they were waiting for in the beginning, but they were waiting. He's right there when Abram was given the first covenant (Genesis 12: 1-3), "I will make your name great...and all the people of the earth will be blessed through you." And He's there when the people of Israel wanted a king so badly they got one who only looked the part--I'm talking Saul! And He's absolutely there when God gave those stiff-necked people David, a 'man after His own heart.' All through the centuries of prophets, through 324 prophecies, He's right there. And the true people of God waited. They weren't always patient. Just like us. Exactly like us. Impatient, stiff-necked, full of sin, badly in need of that Savior. Sometimes hardly knowing they were waiting at all. Still, some of them looked toward heaven, a remnant of them lifted their eyes to God and asked, ALL THEIR LIVES!!!, "When will He come? Soon, Lord?"
Imagine that. We wait 25 days. And while we wait through this Advent Season, we know Christmas is coming. We always see Bethlehem and that stable on the horizon. That pregnant girl and her faithful espoused husband is part of our Advent before we light the first candle. Those shepherds are watching their sheep night after night while we wait, and we know that soon, they'll hear an Angel shock their sandals off their feet. And a chorus of heavenly voices better than the best choir we've ever heard will send those sheep into a bunch so tight the shepherd won't have to worry about finding a lost one for days.
That's what our story is before we start it.. Our paltry 25 days is nothing compared to those centuries of waiting. Yet we're in this with them. We celebrate Christmas FOR them, in a sense. Hebrews says of these people, "These were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (Hebrews 11: 39-40) It's because of the promise to them that we also wait each Advent, I think. Abraham. Ruth, Joshua, Elijah, David, the prophets. All those who waited, who trusted, who believed. We're in it together.
Twenty-five days (or there about). That's what we get to remind us of the centuries of waiting the world did for the most important birth that ever happened on this planet. Let's not squander it by thinking only of ourselves.