In my life, there have been two days on the calendar that were almost unbearable to get through. The first was the day before my wedding. I was so anxious and excited I could hardly stand the day taking all of its allotted twenty-four hours. I was ready and couldn’t wait any longer to pledge my vows to Stephanie. The second occurs every year: Christmas Eve. As a child, it was the never-ending day before the day. My family was strict, with a no-Christmas-presents-on-Christmas-Eve policy, and so everything was saved for the next day. And while the pastor claimed his Christmas Eve service was only an hour, I am confident it was at least three or four times that.
Even though Christmas Eve seemed to go on and on, it always accomplished its designated purpose; it made me ready. As a boy, I would feel the anticipation and excitement grow. As an adult, I am focused on being ready for my family to have a meaningful day of celebration and worship. The focus is never on Christmas Eve itself. It’s all about Christmas Day. If Christmas Eve were a person, his name would be John the Baptist.
The story of Jesus’s birth in Luke’s Gospel doesn’t vault us right into Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph. Luke introduces us to another family, relatives of Jesus who are advanced in years, without hope for children of their own. But then God breaks through. Suddenly, through the proclamation of a child to come there is wonder, anticipation, and preparation for the fulfillment of God’s promise. But this child isn’t the One. He, like Christmas Eve, is all about pointing us to the greater One.
John’s father, Zechariah, worshipped the Lord at the birth of his son. He declared how his son, John, would point and prepare the way for God’s Son, Jesus. The story of John the Baptist’s birth is full of people who are desperate for hope, longing for God’s salvation, looking to the horizon for a light “to shine on those who live in darkness” (Luke 1:79). John’s birth made them all the more anxious, all the more focused on the One to come.
As we wait for Christmas Day, let us do so as people who have seen the light Zechariah sang about. Let us renew our faith and hope in Jesus, and let us praise God that Jesus is coming again to put an end to darkness, once and for all. Today, we prepare for His return.
Written by Jeremy Writebol