Today we’re starting our advent series. Now advent generically just means the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event; and for us it has become synonymous with this season leading up to Christmas. This time is filled with anticipation, another way of saying hopeful waiting, hopeful that the day is coming and that it’s going to be good and it’s going to be everything you ever dreamed it would be. I still remember when I was 7 and we were going to have our first Christmas. It was the first time that I can remember that we had a tree and presents underneath it. And we couldn’t wait, we wanted Christmas to start at midnight because we couldn’t stand the waiting. I think we eventually got a compromise at like 6am, which sounds worse to me than midnight. And that was the year just after Bionicle came out. I don’t know if y’all remember that trend. They were like lego figures in these plastic containers. And my brother and I were really hoping to get one that year. We were shaking and examining our presents, they weren't really the right shape but they were close, but it was soft on the outside instead of hard plastic, so what could it be?
And I’m sure we all have similar stories and experiences. The build up to Christmas. The trees going up in the store, the lights going up outside the house, the Christmas music playing wherever you go, the presents slowly accumulating under the tree, even the incessant ringing of the salvation army bell all adds to the sense that it’s coming, Christmas is coming. And that sense of anticipation, that sense of longing and hopeful waiting is just a fraction of what the Jews felt in regard to their messiah. Century after century they had been anticipating, waiting with hope that a king would come and save them. Parents would gather their children around the fire and tell them the story of the kings, David, Solomon, Zerubbabel, of their mighty deeds, of battles won and battle lost. And through those stories they’d describe this coming messiah, someone who would save his people and make them one again. Who would win back their nation and build them a home where they could belong. A place where God would live with them again and they would be safe. And that generation would pass that beacon of hopeful waiting to the next. And then when he came, he came in a way they weren’t expecting in circumstances they weren’t expecting and he wasn’t everything they hoped he would be, he wasn't everything they wanted, but he was everything they needed.
When we had that first Christmas me and my brother tore into our presents and we did get our Bionicle! Our parents were just tricky and wrapped the container with a package of underwear, you know as parents do. So we got some of what we wanted and some of what we needed. And then after that Christmas, it began the next 364 days of waiting until the next one. And this hopeful waiting is how we are still to live today. Because we know that He is coming again. And it may not be in the way we expect, or in the circumstances we expect, and he may not be everything we want, but he will be everything we need. And that is the hope that we hold from generation to generation.
So, whether you had a good holiday season or a bad one, I hope we all remember that because he lives we can face tomorrow. There are tough times for us all, "in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," but we have our hope in Jesus Christ, the one who was, and is, and is to come. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and here's to the new semester!