14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. — Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). — Matthew 1:18–23 (ESV)
Christmas is a big deal in the Needham home. Throughout the year we count down the months until our beloved Christmas traditions begin. In September, we prepare the yard for the decorations. In October, we design and prepare our outdoor light display. On November 1, lights start going up outside. The day after Thanksgiving we turn on our outdoor display for the first time and enjoy our first Christmas movies of the season, hoping that we don’t blow any fuses! These are just some of the traditions that help us build anticipation for Christmas Day.
But waiting for Christmas isn’t a new thing. The Bible is full of waiting.
This longing and waiting are captured in “O Come, O Come Immanuel.”
O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
God promised Eve that one day her offspring would fix all that was broken and destroyed by sin (Genesis 3:15).
But Eve had to wait.
God promised Abraham a great family, through which all of the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3).
But Abraham had to wait.
King David was promised a son who would rule on his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:12-17).
But King David had to wait.
Israel was promised that one day, light would shine in the darkness (Isaiah 9:2-7).
But Israel had to wait.
Throughout Biblical history, God’s people have desperately longed for Immanuel (God with us), often asking, “How long?” (Psalm 6:3)
Christmas is God’s answer to their waiting.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us).
— Matthew 1:23 (ESV)
Christmas marks the end of their waiting and the beginning of our waiting. We are no longer waiting for God’s Son to come to shed his blood for our sins that we might be forgiven. Jesus accomplished all of that and more at his first Advent. But we are waiting for the renewal and restoration of all things.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
— Habakkuk 2:14 (ESV)
Rejoice this Christmas, for Immanuel has come to be with us. He came bringing us salvation. His Kingdom has been inaugurated. May each moment remind you of that glorious truth. And may our waiting in this season awaken and renew our desire and appetite for the return of our King, and the restoration of all things. May each tradition and celebration be the hors d’oeuvres of the new creation. May we wait well.
Holy, holy are you, our Immanuel!
The answer to our waiting.
This Christmas, we remember the first appearance
of our Redeemer in an epic saga of rescue.
When your life became woven with ours.
We confess that we are infected with our culture’s craving
for instant gratification.
Waiting is not our nature.
Our flesh says: Now.
But you say: Pause. Abide. Dwell.
How foolish that we prefer our own selfish timing
to your sovereign plans.
How benevolent that your deliverance
does not rely upon our patience!
Help us to remember that your promises
are always fulfilled.
The manger. The cross. Your return.
As we pilgrims sojourn, let our waiting
proclaim our need for you.
May we wait well.
The whole world is crying out for you,
even those who might not know it.
Even those who don’t claim Christ
need an answer to their longing.
Come, Lord Jesus, with your restoration and renewal.
We wait with love because you are worthy.
We wait with peace because you are sovereign.
We wait with joy because you’ve set us free.
We wait with hope because we’ve tasted and seen
that you are good.