A couple of years ago I was anticipating Christmas like never before. I was 9 months pregnant with our second daughter and she was supposed to come within days of Christmas. Much to our delight she arrived early, giving us a breather between her birth and the arrival of family for the holidays.
It was such a joyous Christmas! And completely exhausting. To be honest, there are whole days that I cannot recall. But I do remember walking around at the end of my pregnancy (during that “I feel as big as a house” phase) and feeling somewhat close to Mary. Yes, Mary,the mother of Jesus.
No, I wasn’t traveling far distances on the back of a donkey. And unlike Mary, I was happily married to my husband (whose baby I was carrying). And thank goodness I didn’t have to deliver my child in a barn.
But in those days and weeks leading up to my delivery date, I recall being overwhelmed with awe and excitement. I remember being very aware of every movement my baby made, and I wondered if Mary touched her belly 101 times a day, just as I did, curious about what kind of baby Jesus would be. I’m sure she felt the elbows to the ribs and kicks to the bladder and was excitedly counting down to the end of her own journey.
My daughter’s birthday was earlier this week. She’s now old enough to realize that a birthday is a special occasion to celebrate. Which of course means presents to open.
I think I enjoyed giving her gifts as much as she did receiving them! It was so wonderful to see her eyes light up. She tore into each package with such zeal and joy. I was almost in tears watching as what I had carefully picked out and packaged was now making her squeal with delight.
Not because she earned them. If she had been terribly behaved the day before, I still would have given her the gifts. She didn’t have to prove herself to me, or perform a certain way, or say things to twist my arm towards generosity. I gave her gifts simply to watch her be blessed. Because I’m her mother. And I love her.
And with Christmas just days away now (days people, not weeks) I find myself wondering if God felt just as eager for that first Christmas. Just like Mary and every soon-to-be-mother who anticipates their coming baby. Just like every parent who holds their breath as their child tears open gifts whether for Christmas, birthdays or any other occasion.
Just like I wanted to lean in and capture that perfect smile of delight on my daughters face. I wonder… is that what God was doing as He looked down on a stable in Bethlehem?
His anticipation was greater than a nine-month pregnancy, or the weeks between purchasing Christmas gifts and tearing them open on December 25th. Ever since Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit God had new plans already in motion. And He waited. Patiently. Holding His breath in joyous anticipation for that first Christmas gift to be sent. And received.
As the characters took their places, God the Father leaned in. He watched Mary and Joseph make their long and exhausting journey. He softened the heart on the Innkeeper toward the young couple. On the hillside outside of Bethlehem He watched the shepherds get comfortable for the night. And then He motioned for the angels to leave the heavens and head toward that little town. I picture Him smiling, for the stage was finally set.
I believe God was on the edge of His seat because of what “Christmas” meant for the world.
PEACE for those who feel abandoned, forgotten and in the midst of turmoil. A SAVIOR for all who are lost. LIGHT for those in the darkness. REST for those who are weary. HOPE for those who live in hopeless. JOY for the entire world.
Like any Father giving a gift, I picture Him with tears of exuberance flowing freely. Not because we deserve the gift. Not because we’ve earned it, or could ever prove ourselves to Him. God gift didn’t come with strings attached. He gave freely. It was His joy was to give to give His Son Jesus to the world. It was the ultimate act of love and the greatest gift we will ever receive: Immanuel, God with us.