Might as well admit it – I hate waiting. I plan shopping trips for off-peak hours, avoid line ups and get antsy if I have to sit for more than 10 minutes in a doctor’s office. Waiting is time wasted. I’m not unique. Look at the faces in the checkout line, or observe behaviour in a traffic jam. We’re a driven culture with a drive-thru mentality. It’s nothing new for me, either. Apparently I’ve been like this since childhood.
My father used to bring home a Christmas tree around mid-December. He insisted on standing it in a pail of water for a whole week – seven days of torture for me. I visited the tree every day in the garage and imagined how splendid it would look when adorned with lights and baubles in our living room.
At last Pa would bring the tree into the house, make sure it stood straight, trim the branches and sometimes relocate a few for symmetry’s sake, then painstakingly arrange every single light. Only then would my mother allow me to start hanging decorations, which she supervised (and often rearranged). Finally she would fuss with each strand of tinsel.
Gazing at its shimmering beauty, I wondered when the presents would appear. When they arrived, I’d start counting the days until we could open them.
When I was seven a neighbour told me that Santa Claus was a fraud. She also told me Jesus was for real and matter of fact, Christmas was all about him. My teacher affirmed that, pointing out the amazing truth that the word itself starts with his name. I took sincere comfort in that.
Some years later I became a Christian (another word that starts with his name). Christmas took on a new significance – not only had Jesus come the first time – he promised to come back!
I’ve been waiting now for more than 40 years. You already know what a patient person I am. That initial glow of life in Christ, when his return seemed so imminent, faded somewhat. I live in the here and now. The daily challenges sometimes take their toll. I get distracted, discouraged and cranky. I lose sight of the promise that Christ will return, that there is life in eternity. “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
Meanwhile, I mark time with Christmas. Still, it almost always sneaks up on me – suddenly another year is coming to an end and I have all these cherished traditions. Will I be “ready” for Christmas? Ironically, the preparations and festivities I hold dear have a strong potential to obscure the authenticity of the celebration. I don’t think I’m alone. This is the season when pastors, worship committees and writers all scramble madly to combat the glamour and glitz with some exciting way to keep the message fresh. There’s something wrong with that picture, isn’t there?
So this Christmas I’ll ask God to help me focus on what really, truly matters. I’ll push back against my self-imposed frenzy. I’ll ponder the birth of the Christ Child and thank the Lord he came to open the door to heaven for all who believe. I’ll cling to the assurance that in God’s time, Jesus is coming to take us home. And when he gets here, not one of us will ask what took him so long. His timing is perfect, in the truest sense of the word. The “wait” of glory will be fulfilled at last and then we’ll understand the weight of it.