Written by Becca Heck, Youth Director.

Read: 1 Peter 2:9-10

Dec. 22nd is a great day in the Heck family household. A few decades ago my Father started a tradition that I doubt he intended on allowing to become such. He also doesn’t remember that he was the one to start it, but my mother reminds him  annually.
Dec. 22nd marks the first day of “The Elves”. Long before Elf on the Shelf was even a glimmer in Pinterest’s eye, the Heck family celebrated the Elves with great anticipation. What began as a small offering from my dad to his present-hungry children 3 days before Christmas, has now become a loving tradition. Where we once rejoiced at receiving a quarter or a candy bar, we now enjoy our tire gauges and screwdrivers (the elves can be practical).

A few years ago there was blasphemous talk about ending the Elves’ time at the Heck house. Nearly all of us grown children demanded it continue. Not because we needed new tire gauges. Not because we needed more candy. But because this silly tradition is why most of us still try and come home early for Christmas. I don’t ever remember just “expecting” the Elves to show up, I only remember “anticipating” their arrival with a joy, glee, and desire that turns me into the 6 year old girl who once found that the Elves had brought me a Minnie Mouse bracelet (that I still have).

Expectation versus Anticipation. This is where we can live most days.  Growing up in Church, I get so use to hearing the story of Jesus’ birth, that I forget is was in fact a miracle. And not just a miracle of Mary’s virgin birth, but a miracle of our salvation. We let the story of the miracle get wrapped up in our lives, instead of our lives wrapped up in it.

We EXPECT Christmas, instead of ANTICIPATING it.

What’s the difference?
Expectation means we know it is coming, we know how it feels. We know the typical schedule, the traditions, the movies, the family games. All of those are great things that we look forward too (or dread, depending on your family). But Anticipation? It means longing. Hunger. Desire. Salivating for something. We always expect Christmas, we rarely anticipate it – and we are the worse for it.

Christmas celebrates the miracle that Jesus became lower so we could be higher. It celebrates the day that Jesus entered Darkness, so we could become light (John 1:1-5). This is the greatest miracle of all…that Jesus saw us in our worst and took it from us, and gave us the best instead.

That is something to anticipate celebrating…not just expecting.

So let me challenge you. What if for this year, you spend the next 3 days, slowing down? Learn to hunger for this celebration of dark to light. Not because school is out and you get to sleep in. Not because you get to stay in pajamas and play video games. Not just to throw Jesus a “birthday party”, but because we get to celebrate our redemption day.

Let us Anticipate.