Tuesday, May 5, 2009


When I was a child anticipation use to nearly kill me...especially at Christmas! It was my parents' favorite holiday and they would go to all lengths to build up the excitement in the house every year when we were young. It started with Christmas lists to Santa, spraying "snowflakes in a can"on the windows, playing Christmas carols all day long from Thanksgiving straight through New Years, stringing lights on the tree, placing pretty gift-wrapped presents under the tree (except for Santa's of course), baking cookies and culminated with our Christmas Eve celebration with the extended family. It was a glorious time!

One particular Christmas though, when I was seven years old, my mother delayed placing the presents under the tree for some reason. It was odd because she always loved displaying the wrapped gifts under the tree the whole month of December. In my seven-year-old mind I started to panic. "Will there be any presents under the tree at all on Christmas Eve? Did Mom and Dad forget about us? What about the toys I asked for? Will they show up?" It got to be the second week in December...Christmas was only a week away...and STILL the tree stood in my living room donned embarrassingly with only a skirt and ornaments. There were no packages. There were no bows or ribbons or anything but a dumb old white sheet wrapped around the tree trunk.

In our house 6 p. m. was a sacred hour. That's when my parents' sank down in their chairs in front of the television to listen to the evening news hour anchored by Walter Cronkite! I swear the whole house could be engulfed in flames and my parents would sit and watch Walter, totally engrossed in what he was reporting and ignorant of their own surroundings! They'd only believe it if they saw it on the news! Well, one particular news hour during my despondent Christmas, I took advantage of the 6 p. m. news hour and tip toed into their bedroom. That's where the secret stash of presents was usually kept. How I know this is another Christmas story.

So, there I stood, quiet as a Christmas mouse ready to snatch the cheese, staring at the door handle of their walk-in closet. I breathed a deep breath, held it in and quietly turned the squeaky door knob, praying the noise would not distract them from old Walter. As I opened the door ever so carefully, there before me was a mound of shopping bags! HUGE ones! Filled with presents! Yeah! There WERE going to be presents on Christmas Eve! Whew! What a relief! Now...what were they?! I just couldn't help myself. I'd anticipated way too long and before I could stop myself I was digging into the shopping bags and pulling out a plethora of treasures. There was play dough, coloring books, new crayons, play food for my NEW play kitchen! Oh my...and oh...those metallic gold Hollywood fur-adorned slippers I'd wanted! Oh I had to try those on! And there I was amidst these presents, adorned in metallic gold fur-adorned slippers inside my parents' closet celebrating an early Christmas...all by myself. I popped my head out of the closet and listened for Walter's familiar voice. "And that's the way it is..." he was saying. That meant he was signing off! Oh boy! So, I kicked off my slippers and scurried to put all the presents back in their bags just the way I'd found them. I darted out of the closet, closed the door and dashed across their bedroom into the bathroom and shut the door behind me.

For the next week until Christmas, the wrapped packages appeared one-by-one under the tree. Normally, I'd anticipate what might be in those packages but that year there was nothing to anticipate. I'd already seen what my gifts were going to be! What was there to hope for?

Paul reminds me of this anticipation, this hoping in Romans 8: 24b-25 "...But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."

Of course Paul is not referring to material things like Christmas presents. He's talking about our redeemed life; that life that is without sin by the transformation of the life-giving, risen Christ. It's that life that in the Garden of Eden we gave up and from that point on all of creation has suffered the consequences of our sin but is promised to return when Christ returns. Don't you just groan for that redeemed life? Don't you anticipate the glory of what Paradise was and will be again?

And as we anticipate Paradise Paul says "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26).
That Christmas I had nothing to hope for. It was one of my last Christmas snooping expeditions. I learned to wait patiently for what I hoped for. Each year I knew that the emptiness under the tree would soon be filled with gloriously adorned gifts. I just had to wait. So too with our longing and groaning for Paradise. I know that what I lack now, what I can't see will be transformed by God's crowning glory. I hope for what I can't yet see!

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