The days leading up to Christmas can literally feel like forever when you’re a child waiting for Santa’s magnificent arrival. Just the thought of his sleigh loaded with dream-fulfilling gifts for all the children was enough to make my heart explode as a young girl. That morning could never arrive fast enough.
I remember the agony of school days seeming extra long and S L O W as we waited for the start of the holiday break. Then, we still had to “suffer” through the long, final few days at home leading up to the big morning of surprise and bliss. We could only hope for snow, so we could fill the time with sledding, snowmen, igloo construction and perhaps a few neighborly snowball fights. Let’s face it, that was the only time that flew by (much like our sleds,) and, thankfully, it also burned some energy off the mountain of anticipation we felt while we waited.
Making the preparations at home was also a treat in the interim –baking cookies and other delectables, stirring homemade cocoa, placing bows on newly wrapped gifts and gathering family under one roof to share meals, laughter and memories. All these things were wonderful and built up a crescendo of excitement while we waited for Christmas; the most magical day, when each and every component came together in perfect harmony for all the children around the world.
As I reflect, I can remember thinking how amazing it was that this day happened each and every year. It was a miracle each time and so worth the annual wait.
As I got older, Christmas shifted a bit for me. Some of life’s harsh realities began to reveal themselves in ways I would never have predicted as the aforementioned, dreams-do-come-true little girl. One Fall, I recall kissing my father goodbye for a business trip. He never came back home, and I’ve never seen him again since then. There was no tragic accident. No torrid affair. Nothing that I could fully understand.
I was, without question, a “daddy’s girl.” In my eyes, he wore a superhero cape, not a suit, to work every day. He was smart, handsome, musical and passionate. But alas, business success is what drove him, and he went back to his home country of Thailand to pursue it. Without us. Without warning. Without explanation. Still.
So, I waited.
This time I waited, not for Santa, but for my father. I was certain he would give us the surprise of a lifetime and show up one Christmas morning. He would come wth a gift, an apology and a new, better life together that would start that very day. I waited hopefully, even expectantly some years, believing that he would eventually return.
For three decades, I cried when I heard the song “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” It was my anthem of hope that my waiting would one day end, or at least that I might fully understand my father’s unexplained departure. This hopeful waiting lingered, even as I gained a “new dad” in my teen years, grew into adulthood and married in my twenties, and had a family of my own in my thirties. Throughout the years, I remained hopeful for some communication, especially at Christmas.
It never came at Christmas, but amazingly (and by God’s grace,) it did come in the summer of my fortieth year. After all the waiting, I received a voicemail and a Facebook friend request with a hope to re-connect and re-build. Slowly and surely, one tiny bit of precious and long-awaited encouragement at a time, across half the globe, it has been happening. This wait has finally ended and is gently closing a gap in my heart.
This year, my seasonal waiting has taken on a new form. My teenage son is living away from home at a military boarding school. I’m waiting for him to come home for Christmas, and this week feels S L O W and endless (which reminds me of those days when I was little, waiting on Santa!)
In his first semester away from home, we’ve watched with great pride as our son has taken a leap of faith and begun a journey of purpose, passion and personal responsibility. We’ve seen his confidence soar, respect grow, independence flourish and perspective shift. All for the better. And I just want him to come home, so we can celebrate. Together.
I feel like he’s growing up before my very eyes. No longer a little boy, but a young man with a heart and passion for his country, who feels called to serve and who is laying a foundation for that service today. I want to let go and support his dreams and hold him close all at the same time. More than anything, I want him to listen to God’s voice, hear His calling and be brave enough to trust Him.
And, again, I wait….while he grows into adulthood and life purpose. I wait at home with the light on; waiting for him to come home on breaks, while acutely aware that there may come a day of his service where this isn’t an option. Until then, I am especially eager to have him home; his back to scratch, his tummy to fill with his favorite foods and his smile to light up the room.
All this waiting. In every season of life. Oh, how it’s been worth it each and every time. Somehow the waiting; the wanting; the not-right-away delay that hangs over the greatest longings of our heart…somehow, it makes the fulfillment of those longings that much sweeter.
I was reminded this past weekend, as we wait for Christmas yet again that the first, true Christmas has already happened. Today, we are in the waiting period for the next one; when Jesus returns.
I admit, there are days that the world feels incredibly chaotic to me. It has gotten so harsh, so confusing, so far from God. Oh, how it makes me long for Jesus! It makes me not want to wait, but to run into His arms today. I want to hurry up and get to the perfection of Heaven…until I consider this one question:
What happens in the waiting?
In God’s perfect timing, the waiting has purpose and value. In this case, it’s the Gospel. Now is the time to share how Christ has impacted our lives ; to pray that He uses all those who believe to share Truth in love; and to hope that God does a work in the hearts of those who don’t know and trust Him.
It’s the only reason God is making us wait. We are waiting so people’s hearts can be softened and so eyes can be opened to see just how much God loves them: so much so that while we were still sinners, He sent his only Son to die for us (Romans 5:8.) He’s waiting, because He wants more people to receive the Truth of His love. He wants to relieve us of our burdens, our shame, our performance. He wants to free us and give us the gifts of grace and eternity. He wants us all to know the love of Christmas. That’s what we’re waiting for!
So, in this season of waiting, what can we do? How can we make it sweeter and more purposeful? We can listen for the voice of God. We can prepare ourselves and our world for Christmas. We can wrap gifts of love for one another. We can decorate our communities with good works. We can sing (or speak) of His goodness, glory and grace. We can anticipate more than we can fathom or dream, and we can prepare Him room in our hearts, because Joy is coming. Joy to the world!
It will be worth the wait. And heaven and nature will sing!