Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent Again: and the Time of Waiting is Over!

           Not many of us are good at waiting (especially in this age of drive-thrus and fast food), no more today than in Bible times.  For years the prophets had reiterated God’s promises of a Messiah; for years the people had asked “When?” over and over again.

          Just as the eager child has his own visions of what might be in that brightly wrapped package, the people had their own visions of what the “conqueror,” the “mighty,” the “savior” would be.  That’s easy to understand after so many years of oppression, of disappointment, of waiting……someone would come and “even up the score”, “make things right,” and “life would be good again!”

          There had been signs of hope and joyful anticipation through the years as well...much like the gaily wrapped big package that looks like it might hold a wanted toy.   None had proved to be the Promised One…the disappointment was great, the waiting began again, and the anticipation would slowly grow…again and again.

          Unlike the happy child who knows from the calendar when Christmas has come, the people were caught unawares when the gift finally arrived.  With no fancy wrappings, with no fanfare, it was difficult to believe the waiting was over.  Sometimes the very best gifts are simple…and what you are least expecting…..

 *   *   *
     Much is said about the “silence” of that holy night.  I find it hard to believe that with that many people who had come to Bethlehem that there wasn’t noise somewhere!  If human nature was true to form, there might have been comings and goings from the inn, or soldiers patrolling the streets; I’m sure there were sounds of passing hoof beats, passing voices.  There was much going on with that many people “in town.”  The stable was probably quieter than a lot of other places.
         The hillside where the shepherds were was probably quiet except for animal noises, a quiet murmur from a ewe to soothe a wayward lamb, the rustling of a sheep or two finding a more comfortable spot.   When the angels appeared it must have been spectacular!  What an announcement!  What glorious music for that small audience.  What a surprise factor!
         Did all the shepherds go?  Did they have to decide who would stay with the flock?  Whatever they did, I doubt that they went to Bethlehem in total silence.  They must have been stunned by what they had witnessed; you would think they discussed this excitedly as they hurried down from the hills!  It would have been easy to hear them coming….
         The quiet came in God’s presentation of His gift.  The quiet would have come when the shepherds arrived.  The total awesomeness of that “surprise” factor…the gift presented in such a simple way…from God’s heart…offered to mankind in that moment, must have surrounded the shepherds in stunning awesome silence as they became the first witnesses to the perfect gift.  
           No mighty general with conquering armies…but with a power far greater than the world has ever known; no avenging one to “teach the others a lesson”…but one who taught profound lessons of love that would be farther reaching than they could ever know; no mighty hand to smite…but a tiny hand curled in his mother’s, which would bear the pain that would touch the world…a simple picture…and in this moment…came the silence.
          It is the simple gift that touches our hearts; it is quite often the most impressive.  The thoughtfulness and understanding that goes into it is so simple, so quiet, that we can often miss it…if we’re not looking within.  It’s when it enters our hearts that the silence is profound, awesome; it’s when our hearts are touched that we realize how much we are loved. 

         When we realize that….the waiting is over…and for all of us Christmas is, indeed, not the rest of the story, but the beginning of the rest of our lives.

         Thank you, God, for that simply perfect gift!         

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