We put up our tree today. Yeah, I know- it’s November 10th. I’m fully aware that Thanksgiving still hasn’t happened yet. I just like putting it up early! When we moved here a few years ago I put it up early out of practicality, because Dave’s family was coming over Thanksgiving, and I didn’t want to interrupt our time spent with them, by feverishly decorating while they were here, so I did it early. Then I realized how much I liked putting up the tree early. It allowed us to really savor Christmas more. To slow down, and enjoy the moments instead of fitting everything into 4 weeks, so honestly…I’m never going back to putting our tree up after Thanksgiving again 😉
On a more serious note, putting our tree up this year was more emotional for me than normal. I got the tree up without a problem, and hung up the lights. Then I started with the ribbon. Placed the angel at the top, and as I stood back to make sure everything looked just right before we placed the ornaments on, I got sucker punched right in the gut, because I realized this is one more Christmas without our little girl here. I started crying, and I grabbed the kids, and said “Can we pray?” They asked me “What’s wrong mommy?” And I told them, “I’m just sad that Christmas is coming, and our little girl still isn’t home.” By the end of the prayer Abbie was weeping too.
Earlier this week, we had another phone call for a foster placement. This child fit the description perfectly of everything we were hoping for….we finally got to say “YES!!” and yet another family was chosen, and my heart was a little bit more broken, but then I realize in my brokenness, how selfish I am. My empty home pales in comparison to how empty this poor sweet girls world must feel. I weep for my loneliness, and yet a child is about to be taken from her mother, because of her mother’s bad decisions. My arms ache for a little girl to hold, and yet her whole world is about to be shattered. In the same moments I will celebrate to bring a child home, a child is internally broken for all that is lost.
As I stare straight into the face of another holiday without a sweet girls face around our table, I’m reminded of how many others are waiting in their own expectancy….for a long prayed for baby, for reconciliation in a relationship, for a new job in a season of nothingness, or for the pain to subside after the loss of a loved one. So many wait in anticipation, longing for hope…for something to hold onto despite how painfully hard life can sometimes be.
At the very base of our Christmas tree, I place an empty manger. On Christmas morning, we wake up, and see that what we waited for…what we had been hoping for in expectancy all Christmas season leading up to this day….Jesus is finally there on Christmas morning!
Our sad moment by our tree this afternoon reminded me that in our season of waiting, in this time of expectancy, we aren’t alone. I realized that God’s people waited for the arrival of Jesus for thousands of years….
The first reference to the Messiah comes at the very beginning of Genesis, right after the Fall, and God speaks to the serpent (satan). He curses Him, and in vs 15 says “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (This is referring to the ultimate restoration and fulfillment that will come in Christ’s death, resurrection, and final victory over Satan). In the book of Isaiah CH 9 vs 2-9 we see a famous passage in reference to the Messiah:
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”
There are many other passages referencing Jesus coming in the bible besides these, but the point here is….they waited, and waited, and waited….a VERY long time for Jesus to physically come to earth! As I pondered this I could not get the words from this hymm I sang as a child out of my head…
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
You can also listen to Meredith Andrews version of the song here: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
The waiting can feel lonely, hopeless, and very dark, but this reminds me that even in the loneliness of waiting, when hope seems too far gone, and when there isn’t even a flicker of light in the dark, our God is still there…we may question His presence, and His plan, because things aren’t happening the way we want them to, but He is there and at work.
I pray for each of us as the holiday season approaches, that we will hold onto the hope we have in our Savior, and wait expectantly on Him! To know that even if our own manger lies empty from whatever thing we have been hoping, and praying for, that God brought the long-awaited Savior into the world in the form of a baby to fulfill His long awaited promise, and He is truly the only hope we will ever need!