“Why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken up into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.” – Acts 1:11
From what I have seen of late, it seems our culture is yearning for Christmas to happen sooner each year. Every fall the holiday decorations are out in stores earlier and earlier. The music is played on the radio starting November 1st. The lights are up, the trees assembled, the deals made for all the gifts and joy we think we can handle, and yet every year the time seems to come sooner because every year it runs out. In some ways, there was not enough Christmas last year.
We bemoan the onslaught of Wal-Mart and Target transforming the Garden Center into Santa’s Little Workshop. We cringe at the sound of Dean Martin crooning “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” before we have the chance to carve a turkey, eat some dressing and watch some football on that last Thursday of the last full week in November. “No Dean. Don’t let it snow. It’s November! Let’s not rush things.”
Yet, every year, without fail, what we hoped would come of that Christmas spirit, sooner or later, does not come as we would like. It does rest upon us for a while as we gather with family and friends, when we drink some glühwein and sing the carols. Then the decorations get put away after Epiphany, the stores have their sales to lure us in for one last impulse buy, and the feeling fades. Maybe it was never even there for you because of trauma at the holidays or difficulties that life brings from memories of Christmases past that wounded and crushed. The desire for that Christmasing of your life being lost because it never came the first time.
As Lutherans, and as your pastor, I would call your attention to this desire for a “real” Christmas because there is this yearning for Christmas in all of us. Not Santa and Rudolf. Not snowflakes or Hallmark Channel, but the actual CHRIST-mass. The advent of the Christ upon you. The One who comes to bring you peace and joy, where the world has failed. The One who was laid in that manger for the shepherds and donkeys to gaze upon in amazement that this One was the fullness of God come to earth to save us from ever needing that Christmas spirit again. Never needing those carols, or wine, or décor. Seeing that in that Baby sat the very essence of all that was to be made right from this time forth and forevermore.
As we enter Advent, we begin anew the waiting and seeking after the coming of Christ, both in that manger and again as Lord and Judge over all creation. We can be free to set aside a need for any sort of special spirit or joy, free to be allowed to sit in our troubled conscience awaiting the absolution we long for, looking towards the horizon in anticipation that all will be made well in him. That the Baby born in the manger is the Kingdom of God come to earth for your sake. We will be singing and praying for all the prophecies of Christ to come true for us, as we ask Emmanuel to come and be with us at all times this year. Asking and beseeching our Lord, knowing that the whole reason why we need and desire Christmas so badly, is that we look at the world and know that he is the only one who can make things right for us. Trusting that when he said he would come again, he wasn’t lying.