The Sweet Agony of Anticipation
By James H. Pence –
When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was the longest day—and night—of my year. Even when I was old enough to know that Santa Claus was really Mom and Dad, I still became so overcome with excitement that I felt the day would never end. At bedtime, I’d lay for what seemed like an eternity, looking at the ceiling and wondering when I’d ever fall asleep.
My feelings on that day could only be described as “sweet agony.” Agony, because it seemed all the clocks in the house were running in snail mode; sweet, because I was anticipating something that was going to be utterly delightful: Christmas morning. But although the joy of Christmas morning was great, it paled in comparison to the sweet agony of Christmas Eve.
It is that same sweet agony that I see in the apostle Paul when he sat under house arrest, facing trial and possible execution: “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23 NIV).
Most people facing execution will try their best to avoid it. Paul practically says, “Bring it on! I want to go and be with the Lord.” How can we explain this attitude? Paul lays it out for us a few verses earlier: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NIV). The apostle explains that remaining in the body means “fruitful labor,” but dying means to be “with Christ.” He caps it off by saying that being with Christ is “better by far.” Paul’s mind is so focused on the joys of being with Jesus in heaven that death not only fails to frighten him, he welcomes the idea.
Paul lived with the sweet agony of anticipation: The anticipation of an eternity with Christ.
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, may our hearts be overcome with childlike anticipation. Not the anticipation of material things, goodies, or food. Rather, let us experience the sweet agony of longing for heaven, of desiring to be with Christ, of understanding that for us, living is Christ and dying is gain.
That God’s Christmas gift to us: The hope of heaven in Him.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your only begotten Son into the world for us. Please help us this Christmas season to embrace the attitude that says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
“Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 21).
Today’s devotion is by James H. Pence. James is an author, speaker, singer, and gospel chalk artist, but prefers to be known as a storyteller. To learn more about James and how he draws the stories of your heart, visit his Web site at: www.jameshpence.com.