Looking Forward

Where there is no vision, the people perish….
Proverbs 29:18a

What are your plans for the coming year? Do you have any? It may be something as concrete as already-purchased plane tickets, or as ephemeral as “find a better job,” “exercise more,” or the eternally optimistic “lose weight.” Still, it’s good to have goals. We’ve all heard the old adage, “If you aim at nothing, you’re bound to hit it.”

I find that if I have nothing to look forward to, I become depressed. Days begin to look the same, and there’s no hope of anything changing, at least for the better. That’s why, every year about this time, Pete and I sit down and take a long, hard look at our calendar. When each month can we schedule our date day? When can we reserve time, either for a vacation or a “staycation” (the options depend greatly on our budget)? Is anyone coming to visit? Are there any ministry trips—conferences, meetings, and the like—that we should schedule now? Of course, the actual dates may change as the year progresses, and we may have to move things around, but we try hard not to delete them.

Knowing that there’s something I want to do already scheduled helps me get through the times when my “have to’s” don’t match my “want to’s.”

You may not enjoy travel as much as I do, but I bet there’s something else you could anticipate. Are you a sports fan? When are the games you most want to see? Even if you can’t go in person, you can still block out the dates and times. Or maybe you prefer getting together with special people. Should you plan a party or two? Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays—the excuses are plenty, but often we find ourselves busy when the time comes.

Grandpa Bill opening Christmas presentWhen my father reached his 90s, I found it very difficult to come up with birthday and Christmas presents. He already had what he needed, and he wasn’t able to use much of what he’d wanted. That’s when we came up with the idea of a calendar—with pre-scheduled activities on it. I scoured the events section of the paper and came up with a list of fun things a 9-year-old would enjoy, then picked one for every month. We were working on a limited budget, so most of the “daddy dates” were either free or inexpensive.

It turned out to be one of the best gifts ever. Not only did he have fun, we did too. We discovered that our local colleges and universities have free student concerts, and I never would have visited the Clive Cussler museum of antique cars or the Pueblo art museum, if not for this calendar. Moreover, it was remarkable how excited he became just having something to look forward to besides getting even older!

My favorite part of the Christmas season is advent, that time when we expectantly wait, preparing our hearts for both Jesus’ birth and His eventual return. As a child, I looked forward to opening my presents, and the anticipation was as exciting as finally tearing off the wrapping paper. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved on to less materialistic things (and, well, cookies). I look forward to singing the familiar carols, to the gathering together of friends and family, and most of all to the celebration of Jesus, the reminder that God has come to dwell with us, and His Spirit lives in us.

I need this yearly nudge from the Holy Spirit, as He refocuses my mind on what’s truly important. Christianity has a lot of extra trappings, and Christmas has even more, but the essence, the point of the whole enterprise, is that God wants to be our God, and we His people. That’s why He created us in the first place, and why He came to rescue us when we were apart from Him. And isn’t that the best reason to be merry?

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