Looking back on the days of my youth, I suppose there were no days that passed by more slowly than those between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve.
The day after Thanksgiving, time seemed to slow to a crawl. As I counted the days, it appeared that Christmas would never get here. With each passing day, my anticipation grew. By the time Christmas Eve arrived, my brothers and I had worked ourselves into a frenzy. Later, when our baby sister came along, we made sure she was revved up as well.
Sleep never came easily on Christmas Eve at our house. The anticipation was just too great. Although our Christmases were modest by the world’s standards, I must confess we were never disappointed. Anticipation — it can be deliciously intoxicating.
A world away over 2,000 years ago, in the days leading up to the event we celebrate as Christmas, two women were caught up in the wonder of anticipation.
One was a woman, “well stricken in age,” named Elizabeth. She was waiting to give birth to a son; a child of promise named John, fathered by her husband Zacharias who, like his forefather Abraham, “was as good as dead.” When the angel Gabriel told old Zach the news, he couldn’t believe it. Consequently, he had nothing to say until the baby was born.
The birth of John promised to “bring joy and gladness” and “many would rejoice at his birth.” Elizabeth waited in anticipation.
The other woman, barely more than a girl, also waited in anticipation. She was giving birth to a son as well. His name would be called Jesus “for he would save His people from their sins.”
Although the conception of John was a miracle, the conception of Jesus would take things a step further. Mary, a virgin, over-shadowed by the Holy Spirit, had conceived by the “power of the Highest.”
Upon delivering the news, the angel Gabriel steadied Mary by informing her of her cousin, Elizabeth’s conception. Then he added this assurance: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” With wide-eyed wonder, Mary had much to ponder as she … waited.
Fast-forward a few short years.
Elizabeth’s son, a man “filled with the Holy Ghost,” would fulfill his calling as a forerunner. He came preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. John was a man “great in the sight of the Lord.” John was a straight shooter.
John called a spade a spade. For that, they took his head.
Mary’s son, a man “sent from the Father” simply “went about doing good.”
When questioned about the promised Messiah, he responded “I am He.” He kept it simple by saying, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He spoke with authority even to the point of forgiving sins. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” For that, they took his life.
But he took it back (I’m speaking of his life). He could lay it down and take it back up again.
Fast forward again.
A tired, crusty old soldier of the cross named Paul in awaiting his execution in a Roman jail. He writes to his understudy Timothy:
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not only me, but unto all them also who love his appearing.”
Can you not sense his anticipation?
Anticipation is a powerful thing. That’s why it is more important to look forward than to look back.
Hartsville resident Jack McCall is a humorist and motivational speaker.