We all know what Christmas Eve is like. As kids we were bouncing off the walls, trying to go to sleep, but not really wanting to. As parents, we waited until we heard the snoring to start wrapping and staging Santa’s delivery. But what was that first Christmas Eve like like for God?
Probably every person has prepared to do something significant at some point in their lives. A new job you were about to start or a trip you were about to take or a championship tennis match or football game you were playing in.
Maybe it was even more significant than that. Remember the night before your wedding? Remember the hours leading up to your child being born? Remember the moment before your military loved one returned home after months on deployment?
In 2002 I traveled to Cuba for three weeks as part of my seminary training. As the days approached to my departure, the knot in my stomach grew until it was almost unbearable. The day before I left was one of the hardest days of my life. I’ve never been away from Susan for that long before or since. And frankly, until I have fulfilled my ultimate wedding promise, I don’t plan to do that again!
I don’t really know what it was like for God on that first Christmas Eve, but if ever there was a moment for heavenly anxiety, this had to be it. Jesus – who had been with God since before the beginning of time – prepared to separate from Him for the first time. Jesus would leave heaven, depart from the constant presence of God, and become a human being. He was on a mission, and that mission required him to say goodbye to his Father.
Before the celebration that we experience as human beings with the birth of Christ, God had to watch him leave. Before we acknowledge the joy of receiving him, it’s appropriate to note that the gift to us was grief to God.
Why would He do this? He wants us to know His motive:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17, NIV)
So today, as we acknowledge what a joyous occasion this is for us, let us thank God for His sacrifice. He had to be willing to part with Jesus in order for Jesus to come to us. And all the while, God was managing His grief with the prospect of gaining you and me.