We often hear people talk about getting in the Christmas spirit. The context of that is often something we have to do: go to parties, decorate the house, buy the gifts, etc. But have you ever thought about the true spirit of Christmas? Is it worship? Is it reverence?
Is it Jesus? Is it giving rather than receiving? All of those are elements of Christmas, but they are also elements of other times of the year. So what is uniquely the spirit of Christmas? Anticipation.
Think back to your childhood or look at the children in your life now. The joy of Christmas is so much more in the anticipation, the hopefulness of what is coming. Children can spend weeks wishing, hoping, anticipating what they might receive for Christmas. It is the hope and anticipation of receiving good gifts that bring delight.
I believe we feel and foster that Christmas spirit of anticipation because it was part of the original Christmas. Christ's birth was not a one day event, but a season of hope and anticipation.
As the familiar Christmas carol O Holy Night states
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
The Christmas story is full of anticipation and the thrill of hope.
For Mary and Joseph, it was months of delighting in anticipation as Jesus grew in Mary's womb.
For Elizabeth and John the Baptist, the anticipation of Christmas began as John leaped in Elizabeth's womb upon the arrival of Jesus in Mary's womb.
For Simeon he had been anticipating that he would see the Lord's Christ, and he saw the fulfillment of this promise of a lifetime.
For Anna in the temple, she had been anticipating the Redeemer for over 60 years.
For the people of God, it was centuries of anticipating the arrival of Messiah.
For creation, it goes back to the fall, that longing and groaning of hope and anticipation for Jesus to bring reconciliation.
In the heavenly realm, angels anticipated bringing good news and heralding the arrival of Christ the King born in Bethlehem.
For the Trinity it was anticipation of revelation of the relationship where we as His creation could know the fullness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our lives.
The anticipation of that first Christmas was a long time in the making. The first Christmas started off with great excitement, but quickly faded to a life that was hard and dangerous and uncertain. But Mary treasured all these things in her heart. She was able to revisit the hope and anticipation of Christmas in her heart and so should we.
You have 21 days to prepare differently for Christmas than you have in the past. God is inviting you to fill those days with reflections of His past glory and anticipation of the glory to come. You get to choose. You can choose dread by rehearsing what has been or worrying about what might be. God will allow it. But he longs to invite you to a higher and deeper place of hope and anticipation where He will show up for you doing immeasurably more than you can imagine.
May this season be blessed with the thrill of hope and anticipation. Receive the full blessing of God your Father who delights for you to see the fullness of His love for you. Be blessed in the dawning of greater light within you that glorifies the Son. Stay in step with Holy Spirit as He speaks new life into the treasured truth that your Savior, Christ the Lord, is born! May your heart be filled with anticipation of Jesus who is our Hope.