By Joel A. Hess –
It was not hard to stay awake on Christmas Eve when I was a kid. I remember coming home from the candlelight service at midnight. I was not tired at all as the snow crunched beneath my boots. Walking from the station wagon to our house, I took in the splendor of snowflakes falling as if in slow motion, stars glistening in the icy sky, and the sudden burst of warmth and orange light as we entered our home to escape the cold and the darkness and wait for Christmas Day.
Oh, what that glorious day would bring: colorful packages, a new sled, cozy sweaters, laughter, a special Christmas breakfast, and grandma and grandpa’s hugs and kisses. So there I lay silently, listening to my parents whispering, tiptoeing around and wrapping gifts like elves. My imagination of the next day kept me awake that night. Perhaps many of you can relate.
But now I am older, wiser, and more cynical. Let’s face it—parties and presents are not magically produced by elves. They cost money. They take time out of a day already robbed by work. Over the years, I have lost loved ones. I have kissed dead cheeks. Moms and dads have left each other. Daughters have moved far away. And some of us will be alone in front of the TV on Christmas Day. Sin, death, and Satan have stolen our childish joy.
So we are tempted to fall asleep. Christmas Day is just another day. For some, Christmastime is the worst time of year. The cares and worries of the world bend our necks downward. Satan lies to us, telling us that everything we have comes from our own hands, not God’s. Such whispers leave us either depressed by our failure or self-righteous by our success. Satan tells us that we can’t live like little kids who just assume mom and dad will take care of everything. We have peaked behind the curtain, and the benevolent wizard is our pitiful selves. So as Christmas comes, our eyelids grow heavy.
But the joy of Christmas is not presents, family, and Turkish delight! The joy that Jesus tells us to keep awake for is Salvation: the end of sin, death, and the devil! The Day is coming! If you thought Christmas as a child was awesome, that ain’t nothing! The last Christmas will last forever! And the presents Jesus will bring will far surpass a new sled, Atari game system, or pretty sweater! On that Day, Jesus will come with all the Saints, even your grandma and grandpa who died in Christ! On that Day, there will be a Christmas feast like nothing you have tasted! No one will go without! Relationships will be reconciled. The poor will be rich. The sick will be cured. The lonely will be embraced.
So stay awake this advent, no matter what your age! Christmas is not for the happy, successful, and full. It’s not just for the naive children. It’s for the broken and the ashamed, the lonely and mourning, the tired and the weary! Christmas and surely Jesus is for you no matter what you are going through in life. Christmas is about Christ who conquered sin, death, and Satan for you and me. Christmas is about the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. These gifts cannot be taken away, destroyed in a fire, or buried in the mud.
Now that is something that might keep you up at night! More than reindeer clicking on the roof or wrapping paper crinkling in the attic.
Little children, let’s get excited this Advent and stay awake as we look forward to Christ’s glorious coming. As the announcement for the new Twin Peaks series keeps teasing, “It is happening again.”