Advent started on Sunday. And as every good Christian knows, that means the football bowl pairings have been released and we can count the days until our favorite team gets to play again. As a public service I will here note that for Oklahoma State Cowboys fans that would be 25 days until they play Virginia Tech in the “Camping World Bowl” and for Sooners fans it will be 29 days before they play Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
So, to quote the great philosopher Carl Spackler (Caddyshack), “We’ve got that to look forward to.” And the anticipation is killing us. Seriously, I can hardly wait. I mean, if they both win their games—and especially if OU goes on to win the national championship— this could be the best Advent ever.
Anticipation is such a big part of this season. There is an old story about a wife who, in early December saw an oddly shaped present wrapped, with her name on it, sitting under the Christmas tree. That wouldn’t be all that unusual except that her husband was famous for forgetting things like Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Pretty much any time a special day came around he was oblivious to it. He really was a nice guy, just a little forgetful.
Over the years she found herself buying her own birthday, Christmas, and anniversary gifts, a practice which of course does have its own set of benefits. But this year it was different. There was her gift. He had remembered! And she couldn’t wait to find out what it was.
For the next three weeks she walked around with a smile on her face and a special glow. He had remembered her and it felt wonderful. She wanted to peek under the wrapping paper but she restrained herself, waiting for what she anticipated would be a beautiful, even historic moment in family history on Christmas morning when her gift was unwrapped.
Finally the big day came, she could see that her husband was very proud of himself for remembering and kept asking her to open the gift. But she wanted to savor every moment so she kept putting it off until it was the very last present under the tree. Beaming, he picked it up and placed it on the coffee table in front of her. With tears in her eyes she started unwrapping the paper. When she finished she tried very hard to maintain her joy but ended up with a seriously puzzled look on her face. She had no idea what it was. It wasn’t as if this was the “major award” in the movie “A Christmas Story.” Remember? The leg. At least that was a lamp.
Breaking the momentary silence and still obviously full of pride, he asked, “Well, honey, what do you think?”
The very last thing she wanted to do was to hurt his feelings. This was a major moment in their relationship and they both had been anticipating rapturous joy at the unveiling of this gift. She took a deep breath and stammered, “Oh dear, this is so wonderful and so thoughtful and I am so moved that you remembered. But what is it?”
They sat there for a moment, both looking at a clay pot with a stick in it. Just a basic stick with maybe a couple of small branches sticking out. No leaves. Not a potted plant really, just a stick. Near the top there was a string, maybe five or six inches long, and at the bottom of the string was an ink cartridge. You know, like the kind you would use in a fountain pen. She thought perhaps it was a clue to something else, so she looked around for maybe a nice Waterman fountain pen, but there was none.
She could see that he was beginning to feel a little hurt by her reaction, so as politely, gently and sweetly as she could, she asked again, “I so love that you remembered, honey, but really what is it.
Crushed, he answered. “Well I thought you would know right away. It’s the best Christmas gift ever. You know, like the line in that Christmas song. “A cartridge in a bare tree.”
My apologies for what may be the worst Dad joke ever. But it provided a nice segue into what I really wanted to talk about—my Dad.
He turned 91 years old last June. He has had a pretty good life. He has married, and buried, two wonderful women. As far as I know, he always remembered their birthdays and anniversaries. He is a believer but in that old-school Presbyterian way where being part of the elect comes with just a hint of pride but since pride is a sin that makes you feel a little guilty—so you don’t talk about it much. I think the clinical term for that is CCDD, Calvinist Cognitive Dissonance Disorder
He still has most of his faculties, is in good health “for a man of his age,” and he is convinced that pretty much the best thing that could happen to him would be to get married again. At least for the moment that does not seem likely so when I ask him how he is doing, his usual answer is, “I’m okay. Really bored, but okay I guess.”
Bored. There is something very sad about that. My sister and I have tried to help him see that even at 91 his life can still be a kind of adventure but he’s not buying it. Getting out of bed in the morning and finding his way down the hall is an adventure. But it’s not very exciting. He argues that 91 is the new … well … 91.
Yesterday I had a thought. Advent is a time of expectation and anticipation. It is a time when we know something wonderful is coming; something that is more wonderful than a national championship; something that is even more wonderful than presents waiting under a tree.
But it occurred to me that at the age of 91, even though you have no idea exactly when, if you trust in Christ, one day soon you will experience a Christmas morning when, in the presence of the Savior you get to open the big present. You will get to see what Jesus has been preparing for you, and unless I am very mistaken, you will never be bored again.
So I asked my Dad about that. Isn’t it possible to spend each day with the same kind of joyous anticipation that a child has on Christmas Eve? Never a guy to use more words than necessary, he said, “Yeah, that really is something to think about.”
Ever since the church figured out Hal Lindsey’s math was wrong and Jesus didn’t come back in 1988, we have earnestly and properly tried to focus more on living in the presence of the kingdom now, and not as much on compelling people to say the sinner’s prayer so that when they die they will go to heaven, live happily ever after, and we, apparently, get some sort of finder’s fee. (I was never very clear on that part.)
But at the age of 91 it seems appropriate to spend at least a part of your day in child-like, Christmas Eve anticipation of the life to come. In fact, I think Advent is a reminder of just how appropriate that is at any age.
The keen of eye will recognize that this is about Advent and yet it was posted on January10. The Oklahoma State Cowboys won their bowl and the Oklahoma Sooners lost the Rose Bowl. Okay, so I’m a little slow. But largely this is a tribute to my dad and I figure the date of posting isn’t all that important. I could be wrong. No doubt one of my 2 or 3 readers may point that out.