As a child, waiting for Christmas Day seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. The highlight of every December day was opening the little window on the Advent calendar, and I trailed my mom like a little shadow, peppering her with questions. “How many more sleeps until Christmas? Please can we open a present today, Mom? Can you give me a hint?” My sister and I were notorious “peepers”. The tape securing the wrapping on our gifts was always mysteriously worn by the time Christmas rolled around.
But worst of all was Christmas Eve night. I dreaded that night all month. I never could sleep. Michaela and I would huddle together, whispering, listening, guessing what our gifts might be, throughout the sleepless hours. Pure bliss was the moment when, at last, Dad let us go to the tree early Christmas morning. As we tore through the wrapping and tissue paper like so many small hurricanes, it was the happy culmination of all those hours of waiting.
For the Jews, the first Christmas was more than the actualization of a child’s eager expectancy. The birth of Jesus Christ marked a turning point, a zenith, an epoch. It was the realization of hundreds of years of anguished longing. The Messiah was Israel’s Great Hope. He was their long-awaited King and Savior. Enslaved mothers comforted their suffering children with the promise of the Coming One. Weary, homesick laborers were strengthened for the hours ahead because of Him. The advent of Christ Jesus was not just a nice idea, a pleasant afterthought, a pretty story. What transpired in Bethlehem’s stable was the one great hoped-for event of tens of thousands of Jewish people.
The way little children eagerly and impatiently look forward to Christmas is a picture of the anticipation Israel felt as they waited for the coming of their promised Messiah. But every child knows that Christmas Day will come at last. They know when it will come and they count the days. God’s chosen people did not know when their Messiah would arrive, or when, or how. They only knew what the prophet Isaiah had promised.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

They waited for him with a longing that cannot be expressed in words. Theirs was the deep yearning of a suffering people clinging to their last hope. But when their Savior came at last, it was in a way that no one could have expected. He was not born with fanfare and applause. There were no fireworks or trumpet blasts. His was the humblest of births, to the lowliest of guardians, in the poorest of places. And no one was watching.


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