Originally published Tuesday, 17 December 2013.
Have you ever waited for something for so long, finally receive it, and then realize it's not what you wanted after all? Have you ever anticipated something, saved up for it, and then when it arrived you discovered it wasn't all what you thought it was? Sometimes our expectations for something and the truth of what we are waiting for don't line up and we are left empty and disappointed.
Advent is a season of waiting. This year, as we await the celebration of Christmas Day, we ought to ask ourselves--just who are we waiting for? Who is this Jesus, Immanuel, God made flesh, that we spend all these days anticipating and waiting for?
The Israelites waited centuries for the Messiah promised in Genesis 3:15. Yet the Messiah they waited for was not the one spoken of in Scripture, and many missed his arrival. During their centuries-long Advent, they began to anticipate a Messiah who would come as a warrior King. They believed their greatest problem was the Roman occupation and they wanted a Messiah who would rescue them from the Romans. They waited for a conqueror of Rome, not the conqueror of Evil itself.
And never did they imagine their greatest need was freedom from the sin within themselves.
They believed their long-awaited Messiah would arrive as any other King. Little did they expect him to be born in a manger, to a poor carpenter and a simple young girl. As he grew in stature, wisdom, and insight they didn't believe this Messiah who walked among them was God incarnate. They didn't believe in a Messiah who cared more for the sick, poor, marginalized, and sinful than for those who had it all together. They never imagined that the leader of a ragtag group of disciples had come to rid the world of sin and pain through His very own sacrifice. It never crossed their minds that he would defeat their greatest foes from the cross rather than defeat them with swords and spears.
And never did they think that more than their need for rescue from the Romans was their need to be rescued from the curse of sin and death.
We are not all that different from Israel of Jesus' day. Our own culture has made Jesus into something entirely different from who the Bible says he is. Many view him as a good teacher, some as a Savior, but rarely as Lord. When Christmas arrives each year, we focus our heart's on receiving gifts wrapped in pretty paper, not the greatest Gift, wrapped in swaddling cloths.
If we spend this month waiting for the wrong Jesus, we will miss him entirely.
So I ask, who are you anticipating this Christmas? Is the Jesus you are waiting for the one Scripture tells us about or one of your own making? Are you expecting him to ride into your life like a knight on a white horse and rescue you from the challenges of your difficult life? Do you look for him to pop up like a genie and answer your every wish and dream? Is he like a candy machine where you input your good deeds for the day and expect a blessing to come in return? Do you admire some of his teaching but discard what doesn't suit you? Is the Jesus you wait for just a teacher, a sweet baby or the Savior of your soul?
Is this Jesus of Advent the one who will deliver you from sin, restore you to your Maker, give you joy in the midst of life's trials, and hope for an eternity spent with him?
"Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (Luke 9:18-20)
This Christmas, who are you waiting for?