When Matt Appling writes, he calls the church to be a better version of herself. Somehow, he also manages to be both compelling & grace-filled. I hope you sense that in his words today.
Linus was able to recite the Christmas story by heart for the benefit of his friend, Charlie Brown…from the King James Bible no less.
Since then, millions of children had heard that familiar Christmas story as told by Linus. Even if they never hear the story recited by a parent or pastor, they know the story because of Linus.
But I think there’s an equally good version of the Christmas story. It just doesn’t get a whole lot of usage.
It’s about waiting…
About all the emotions that are wrapped up with that infant Jesus.
The Other Christmas Story
One of my favorite scriptures to read at Christmas time is actually John chapter one.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…
…He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
No angels or shepherds or even a baby in the manger, but to me it is nothing less than the Christmas story.
The Twelve Weeks of Christmas
We put a lot of anticipation on Christmas. The Christmas season really begins with Thanksgiving. We see decorations return to stores in October, reminding us of the impending holiday. Over a tenth of the year is spent anticipating Christmas.
I remember the unique feeling of anticipation and anxiety I felt as a child leading up to Christmas. Today, I anticipate Christmas for different reasons than I did as a child, but the feeling of anticipation is still there.
But when I read John’s gospel, I imagine just how much God anticipated that first Christmas.
In the Beginning…
John’s gospel says that Jesus was with God in the beginning, way back in Genesis, when God was forming the world. Jesus was right there, creating the world.
Of course, it was not long before God’s plan for humanity goes sideways. God’s perfect creation is wrecked, like a child’s Christmas present that breaks right after being unwrapped.
I can imagine the heartbreak God felt as he sent his beloved people out of the garden. He no longer enjoyed unbridled fellowship with his creation.
But God has a plan to make it all new again.
But it isn’t a plan that can be slapped together overnight. God meticulously lays his plans, through generation after generation. He is looking centuries into the future. His heart continues to break as people turn away from Him. The day when His plan will come to fruition seems like it cannot come soon enough. But God must wait.
Expecting a Different Gift
God had the most perfect gift to give. He could barely contain His excitement. He knows that this gift will make everything right again. The gift is finally given “in the fullness of time.” That means the time was just right.
And what happened when the gift of the Savior, God with us, Immanuel, was finally given?
People didn’t recognize Him. They were anticipating something else. They missed Him.
That’s what people have been for two-thousand years. We continue to expect something else. We anticipate and get excited for another, lesser, imperfect gift than the one God was so excited to give. And the excitement of all the gifts we give wears off so quickly.
Don’t miss the gift God wants to give you. Get excited the way you did as a child. Get some butterflies in your stomach, the kind you had as you ran downstairs in your PJs. God has sent a Savior. Make sure you don’t miss Him.
About Today's Guest Blogger: Matt Appling
For starters, I am an elementary art teacher, and I love it. Guiding students in creative pursuits is such a gift to me. I am also a seminary educated pastor, and lead a wonderful little house church. In 2008, I started my blog, The Church of No People. I am also a syndicated columnist at Prodigal Magazine. On April 1, 2013, Moody Publishers will release my debut book, Life After Art. I wrote it with inspiration and insights I unexpectedly gained as an art teacher. I tweet at @MattTCoNP.
Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.