‘Oh no! Dad’s Christmas Shopping at Dollar Tree, again!’

Groans erupt when our four adult children hear their father’s annual Santa pilgrimage is in motion.

“Just let him,” I say, while flashes of plastic flutes, Sponge Bob gloves, Old Maid cards, and marshmallow Santa’s from ghosts of Christmas’s past parade through their memories.

But woven in the moans of feigned despair, I always hear the twinkles of their hearts already warming in anticipation. They can never out guess what will be tucked in their stockings.  One thing they do know: when they empty them, their daddy’s love pours out full force with the goofy trinkets and candy.

You see, when the shopping event takes place, it signals that Christmas is truly coming.  Up to that moment, my husband growls about stores decking their halls before Halloween, and Christmas specials starting Thanksgiving Day—on TV and with pre-Black Friday deals.  Even as late as last week, he was belly aching about ‘all that Christmas music on my radio stations.  It’s too early.’

As much as I try, I can’t rush him with my plotting and planning.  Great ideas buzz and sizzle to fall on deaf ears.  He’s just not ready for them.

Then at an anticipated, but unexpected time, Cliff starts to piddle with a few strands of lights, stringing them along the porch until the Clark Griswold in him shines forth.  His eyes light, followed by ‘so, we goin’ to Wichita shopping this weekend?’  He turns into the biggest kid around and can hardly contain himself. Once the shopping bags clutter our living room floor, carols are allowed to drift in the background as he checks to make sure everyone is covered in the gift department.

But as with all good plans, the discouraging rumors of the I-think-I’m-gonna-die-flu spread like a rampant virus. Tragic newscasts and forecasted blizzards attempt to bury his joyous spirit.  Instead, he sees this as merely a sign that we are getting closer to the celebration.  In the wrappings of the wait, his enthusiasm increases until the Wow Factor moment when we worship God’s love revealed on Christmas Eve—his favorite service.  Then he quickly hustles us past folks trying to visit and out the door—after all, there are presents to unwrap and love to share.

This year, through him, God has faithfully answered my yearly prayer to reveal something new after half a century of Christmases.  When I was little, my spiritual highlight was Baby Jesus coming to us in a manger.  As I matured, Easter took on new significance when that baby willingly came to atone our sins and defeat death through the Resurrection.

But this year, I’m seeing another chapter added that deals with waiting and anticipation.  Could it be that through this yearly cycle, Christ is preparing our hearts for when He comes again?  You know, with a dazzling  display of lights and  the pizzaz of trumpet music, but at the same time will give us more peace than the traditional carols we cozy up in like our favorite snuggly blanket?

And do we allow ourselves to get distracted by the rumors of war, the gloom and doom of a world gone crazy, and disasters a plenty?  Or do we see them as sure-fire signs that we are getting one step closer to being in the 24/7 outpouring of Christ’s eternal presence?

Yes, I think there is something to this yearly unwrapping of the wait. May our hearts warm in anticipation as our Savior primes us for the long-awaited completion of his redeeming love.—The Ultimate Wow Factor.

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” Matthew 24:44

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in god, trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14: 1-3

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