The Joy of Anticipation

As a child, the Christmas season was one filled with excitement and anticipation. There was so much to look forward to. We got to decorate the house, listen to Christmas music, and eat Christmas goodies, open presents, and so on. It was always a joyous time of year. I must admit though, as I have gotten older, I don’t as much look forward to this time of year, as I do to just getting through it. There are all of the Christmas parties and programs to attend, along with the shopping, traveling, and spending time with in-laws. It just seems like a relief when it is all over. Afterwards though, I am often left asking myself where that joy of Christmas I once experienced has gone.

Thankfully, the Bible always sets me straight and reminds me of where my joy is to be found at this time of year. It’s not in all of the holiday trappings. Nor is it in the giving or receiving of gifts. It’s not in the happiness of our children or even in the remembrance and celebration of Christ’s birth. It’s not that we cannot find joy in those things, but there is a deeper and more fulfilling joy to be found elsewhere. That joy comes from what Christ’s birth means for us and what it points to in the future.

Long before Christ came into this world as an infant, people had been anticipating his arrival. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Then a couple chapters later in Isaiah 9:6 it says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The people had been looking forward to the day when this child would come into the world and grow up and establish his kingdom.

Likewise, our joy at Christmas comes as we anticipate Christ’s second coming into this world. While there was tremendous joy when Christ first came as a baby, it won’t compare to the joy we will experience when he comes again. Christ’s second advent is truly something to anticipate with joy. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 gives us a brief picture of what we have to look forward to: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

We can anticipate Christ making a grand entrance when he returns. He will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel speaking, and with the trumpet of God. We can also anticipate meeting our Savior in the air and remaining with him forever! Finally, we can anticipate the return of Christ, because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is going to happen. Just as Christ’s first advent into this world was prophesied in the Old Testament, the New Testament is filled with promises concerning his second coming. John 14:3 says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Christmas truly is a joyous time of year. It is a celebration of Christ’s birth, but more importantly it’s a glimpse of what is to come and the joy we will experience when we see our Savior face to face. Take time this Christmas season to reflect upon why Jesus came into this world, and upon the fact that one day soon he is coming again to receive you unto himself. Wishing you a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!