What did you anticipate as a child?
Perhaps the end of school and summer vacation? Or going to Grandma’s house? How about an annual parade or festival in town? A fireworks display? Summer camp? A trip to an ice cream stand? Picnics! Birthdays!
In response to this question, my husband’s response was, “The opening day of trout season!”
For my kids, the response was, “Any holiday, but especially Christmas!”
As a young person, you might have anticipated your own set of wheels, your first kiss, or finally being out on your own.
As adults, we might anticipate the birth of a child, a new house, a raise in pay, watching Sunday’s football game, getting together with family, or maybe just a night out– without the kids! Or it may be something as simple as a nap!
It was a word my mom loved. My siblings and I? Not so much. Anticipation meant we had to wait for something.
Mom used the power of anticipation for special occasions, but she also employed it with basic things. There were four kids in my family, plus a foster sister. After grocery shopping with coupons, Mom would stash our favorite cereals and lunch pail snacks in her room, bringing them downstairs for consumption at her discretion.
In many instances, our question of, “When…?” would be met with the answer: “I guess you’ll just have to anticipate!”
Of course, the height of anticipation was Christmas. As Christmas Day approached, our arrival home from school became an event to find out how many wrapped gifts had been added to the pile under the tree. Waiting was sheer torture! In our home (and at my grandparent’s home), the Christmas morning tradition was to have a nice breakfast, family photos in front of the tree, and a devotional… before opening even one present. Finally, everyone would receive a gift. From the smallest cousin to the oldest adult (or vice-versa), each would open one gift in an orderly fashion so that everyone could see what was received. This also ensured that the giver could be properly thanked. For a kid, it was excruciating!
I do remember when I learned how valuable anticipation was. One year, when our parents were away for an evening, my sister and I talked each other into peeking at our presents. “I will, but only if you will!” we told each other. Together, we peeked at a few things…and totally ruined our Christmas morning.
Not to get side-tracked into the value of self-control and the importance of learning discipline, I’m focusing here on how anticipation makes an experience richer, meaningful and more enjoyable. The memory of the event becomes more valuable because of how much we grow in anticipation.
With that in mind, consider the phrase, “when the fullness of time had come” from Galatians 4:4. It has been on my mind this season as our choir has worked on the song “Just When We Truly Needed Peace.”
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” (Galatians 4:4a, ESV)
The context of Galatians 4:4 concerns the plight of a person who really has nothing good to anticipate. A life before salvation through Jesus Christ means that you are a slave to sin, to the world and to the flesh. However, the promise that comes through salvation is adoption into God’s family; as a child of God we are made an heir with Jesus in eternity! Through the Old Testament, we see the coming of Jesus promised and prophesied. Relentless with hope, the Jewish people anticipated the coming of the Messiah. And then, at the perfect point in God’s plan, when the “fullness of time had come,” even when all the indicators in world history seemed to point in the direction of despairing of Divine Promise, He sent His Son, Jesus, bringing hope and salvation–not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. (see http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/fullness-of-time/)
Pastor’s series of Advent messages have considered the songs of individuals like Zachariah, Simeon, Mary, John the Baptist, and even the song of the angels—all of which remind us of the wonderful richness and meaning in the long-awaited, much anticipated event of Christ’s birth.
This is why I have come to appreciate the Advent themes. They give focus to our anticipation so that we pay attention to those things that really matter during the Christmas season. I want to pass that knowledge and understanding on to my children. You could say that I want to pass on an appreciation for anticipation.
Yes, I find myself carrying on some of my mother’s traditions. I suppress a smile as I reply to those “When are we…?” questions:
“I guess you’ll just have to anticipate.”