The living room is perfectly lit for Christmas. It’s cozy and warm. And it’s quiet. Maybe it’s the long, winter(ish) evenings or the fog that lifts slowly as the day starts. Maybe it’s the Christmas tree or the wooden manger scene beside it. Maybe it’s the memories of thirty years of Christmases. I can’t say for certain. But there’s a holiness to the stillness in the middle of the Christmas rush that slows me down in a way that the long, slow days of summer never do.
Maybe it’s the heaviness of the waiting. The longings we can’t put words to. The desires we can’t define. The hopes we lean toward but can’t quite grasp.
In a strange way the waiting feels right at Christmastime. Because the whole world waited for the tiny child who would squirm and stretch and sigh in a humble manger.
It had been years—centuries in fact—since the glory of God had made His presence known to His people. They’d heard the stories of a God who had appeared to Abraham, of a Man who had wrestled with Jacob, of a Captain who had stood before Joshua. They believed in the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace and they longed for the coming King of Israel. But it had been awhile. A long while.
And long waits will make us wonder.
Were those simply stories of another time?
Must we live in the shadow of a God once seen?
Must we strain to hear the echoes of a God whose voice once was clear?
Must we cling to fragile faith in a God who once came near?
We know His promises. We know His words. We know His character. And so did those people so long ago. But it had been long since they’d seen. They were a people ragged and weary, living under the harsh realities of foreign rule, longing for the glory of a kingdom past, struggling toward the promise of a kingdom that would come.
Wondering all the while if they’d ever see His face again.
Until the wonder on a young girl’s face answered all their wondering.
That young woman waited in way no other would. She felt the tugging tension as the presence of God grew within. She felt the stress and stretch of Hope expanding beneath her ribs as the Almighty wrapped Himself in fragile flesh before she wrapped Him in those swaddling clothes.
Weary and worn and ragged herself, she cradled the baby against her chest. He squirmed against her, and she pushed herself up to sitting, resting the newborn on her knees. She kissed his furrowed brow and lingered there for just a moment.
Then she pulled back to look at Him.
Face to face.
He blinked and squinted her features into focus as she traced her finger over His.
Her God had come.
To assure the world of His promise: Emmanuel. God With Us.
The raspy cries of the newborn Christ proclaim it fresh each December.
The people of long ago didn’t know what they were waiting for. And maybe we can’t name it either. But Mary didn’t miss Him when He came.
So we pull our feet up under us on the couch. We wake up a little earlier or stay up a little later, and we spend time with the One who is with us. We kneel there with Mary beside the manger throne and we trace the tiny features of the One who has come.
We sit here in the quiet this December, face to face with the One for whom we’ve waited.
Next Spring, Kathy and I will be continuing our Face to Face series with Intimate Encounters with the Living Christ. We will look in the gospels at several people who encountered Jesus as He walked the earth as a Man in hopes that we will come to recognize His presence in our own lives. We hope that you will join us on Thursday mornings beginning January 12 or online at your own pace.
If you were registered for the fall study, you do not need to sign up again, but if you did not participate in the fall and wish to join us in the spring, please sign up here.