Psalm 14:7 “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!”
My parents used to wait until just a day or two before Christmas to put the presents under the tree so that they wouldn’t have to put up with us kids begging them to let us open this or that gift early. Already as children we have greedy reasons for wanting Christmas to come.
A large number of people long for Christmas to come just to get the season over with. December crams more traffic, longer lines, and more activities into lives which are already too full. For some people, the Christmas season may seem to bring as much stress as it does fun.
King David was filled with longing for other reasons. He doesn’t mention Christmas by name, but it was the events of Christmas he longed for just the same when he says, “Oh that SALVATION for Israel would come out of Zion!” David longed for salvation. He longed for God to send him a Savior. David was not unaware of the fact that God already forgave him for the sake of his coming Savior. But he longed for the day when God’s promises would be fulfilled. He wanted the historical events upon which our forgiveness and eternal life would be based to become accomplished facts. His hunger for such things grew out of his deeply felt need to be saved from his sin and saved from this world, and his heart-felt appreciation for how good God was to promise him this.
We would like to long for Christmas, and long for Christ, like David did, too, wouldn’t we? We would like this to be a special event that moves our hearts like his was obviously moved. When we hear other people give gut-wrenching, heart-tugging testimonies of God’s grace to them, and they speak in such a way that it is clear that Jesus means more than anything, we want to get some of what they have. We want to find Jesus so moving. But how can we long for our celebration of Christ’s birth like David longed for its first coming?
They say that hunger is the best cook. We share that hunger which makes Christmas a savory feast when we understand our need for the gift that God is giving to us. Christmas is about salvation. Salvation is about being in the greatest of danger, the most desperate of situations. We find ourselves absolutely helpless, faced with certain death, when all of a sudden God himself swoops into our world, and he plucks us up, and he carries us in his arms to safety. Jesus’ birth is God swooping into our world, and his outstretched arms on the cross are the arms that pick us up and carry us to safety. But I will never appreciate the great danger I was in, nor the heroic rescue which God has made, unless I understand that what got me into this predicament in the first place was my own sin.
Advent is what we call a penitential season. As much as it anticipates our Savior’s coming, it leads us back to why he had to come. I am a sinner. I’m not just a diamond in the rough, a real jewel with a few rough edges that need to be smoothed. By myself, I am helplessly lost, a hopeless case. King David knew that, and he longed for God’s salvation. It meant something to him. Christmas will be meaningful for us, and we will long for its message of God’s grace to come to us again, when we see and feel that God’s salvation is something which we really need. Renewing that longing is part of the Christian way to wait for Christmas.