Written by Fr. Dale Minor - The Reclaim Ministry
“And it will be said that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him.and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’” (Is. 25:9)
Perhaps every adult, while reflecting on their childhood, can remember a Christmas or Christmases when they had high hopes of receiving a special gift and the excitement that grew within them as the great day approached. Perhaps your dream was realized, perhaps it was not. I guess I have been fortunate enough to have experienced both, the realization that my dream gift was not to be obtained as well as the temporary joy of having been given my hearts desire.
I use the word “fortunate” in both circumstances because nearly seven decades of experience have afforded me an appreciation for the gift of anticipation. What I am getting to is the fact that so much of what we desire on this earth has only temporary value and thus can provide only momentary satisfaction; but the anticipation of the gift often leaves us with cherished memories and lasting rewards.
Yet today, I remember with a smile how I longed to find an electric train under the tree, but it never arrived. Later, I would just as fervently anticipate the gift of a new ball glove which I did receive. Yet, I can’t perceive how either event appreciably changed my life one way or the other. However, the anticipation of those gifts has stayed with me; perhaps because I now understand the sadness in my parents’ hearts when they were unable to provide my coveted toy, as well as the joy they shared when they were able to bless me.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote [in my weekly E-Musings] about the traditions of Advent and mentioned that the four candles of an Advent Wreath represent the gifts of hope, faith, joy, and peace. All of these can be seen as subsets of the greater gift of love, the Love that came down at Christmas in the person of Jesus Christ; and they most often are listed among the greatest of our heart’s desires.
Among the several lessons Jesus taught in what we know as The Sermon on the Mount is a section testifying to the Father’s desire to give good things to those He loves, and He loves us all. Matthew 7:7 begins, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” Then, beginning in verse 9, He asks the following, “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?” Jesus then answers his own question for us: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask of Him!”
The issue here isn’t the gift but the love of the Father. Any loving father knows that sometimes the most loving thing he can do is to refrain from giving his child what they are asking for. It will do no good to grant the child his most heartfelt desire if the end result would be to do him harm. Even the harm of allowing his selfish wishes to be granted. But at the same time, a loving father will go out of his way to give his child the things which will benefit him most.
The season of Advent is arranged such to encourage and enhance our anticipation of the Coming of Christ. Not just a remembrance of His coming as a child in Bethlehem of Judea, but anticipation of His coming again to judge the living and the dead. This is an event worthy of anticipation; it is the gift that is assured.