Advent is a little like waiting for spring training to start. Now I can hear some of you moaning and groaning — you, who, like my wife, can’t stand that I’m bringing up baseball again … in December. But here’s the deal: spring training tickets go on sale this month, and I’ve been making a habit of driving out to Tempe, Arizona for a weekend in March and watching three games guilt-free. Well, it’s my Christmas present; I gotta do it.
Poor Marti has herself to blame for this. She started it all off a few years ago by surprising me with a spring training package for Christmas. That’s where you get the airline ticket, the fancy hotel, the Angel hat, T-shirt, and backpack, and a barbecue with some of the players thrown in. The next year, however, I found out it was much more affordable to buy the experience in pieces. I’ve already got the paraphernalia, and I can pass on the barbecue. So I get the tickets in December, reserve two nights in a cheap motel in January, and in March, it’s the gas to get there and back and a few meals. Not to mention, I love a road trip, and I get to have breakfast on Friday and dinner on Sunday at the Steak ’n’ Cakes in Blythe, California. Now you can’t beat that!
The only problem with this is that I kind of have my hands all over my Christmas present, and Marti likes surprises, so this necessitates a little game-playing of its own. A few days ago I had the thought that perhaps they might already have tickets on sale and I should probably check it out but never got around to it. Then, when Marti asked me to find something she needed in her purse, and I came across some papers with the Angel logo visible, I knew she had already gone ahead and ordered the tickets. So now I know; and as soon as she reads this, she’ll know I know. Does any of that take away the surprise for Christmas? Not a bit. I can’t wait. Just knowing that those tickets are already secured and waiting for me brings me great joy any time I think of it.
In eleven short days, we will be celebrating the best news the world has ever known — that God sent His son to earth to pay the price for our sins so He could be free to love us, and on December 25, we celebrate His coming. Does the fact that we know this take away from the surprise? No. Does the fact that we anticipate the coming of someone who has already come take away from the anticipation? No. Because the news is so miraculous, so unexpected, so preposterously good, so not something we would ever come up with, that we can never get to the bottom of it. That’s why we have Advent. We celebrate this visitation of God every year, and anticipate its coming. We take the opportunity, prior to Christmas, to emphasize the hope, peace, joy and love that Christ brings.
On Christmas, I can’t wait to open the gift I already have, and be genuinely surprised on a totally earthly level. (Thank you, Santa, and thank you, Marti.) And infinitely better, we will also open the greatest gift the world has ever known — the gift we already have — and be full of the hope, peace, joy and love that gift brings, without which we would be utterly hopeless. Thank you, Lord, and Merry Christmas everyone!