Advent Devotional: He’s Coming! I Know Him!

In recent years, one of our family traditions during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been to watch the movie Elf at least once a week. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Buddy the Elf learns that Santa is coming to the department store he is working at. He begins yelling and shouting, “Santa! He’s coming here? I know him! I know him!” He’s so excited that he can’t stop smiling. Buddy stays up all night getting the store ready for Santa’s arrival. He makes a giant Lego model of the North Pole, he cuts paper snowflakes and popcorn strings and mistletoe to decorate the store, so it will be ready for Santa’s arrival. In case you haven’t seen the movie, the thing that makes this scene so funny is the fact that Buddy isn’t really an elf – he’s a man in his 30s played by Will Farrell, who is dressed like an elf and truly believes in Santa. Those who see his childlike exuberance for Christmas and “elf culture” respond in one of two ways throughout the movie. They either catch the contagious joy that Buddy radiates, or they (especially those who have lost the Christmas Spirit and don’t believe anymore) cross their arms and glare at him in judgment for being weird and not fitting in with the rest of the grumpy people who are trying to get through Christmas. It’s an odd comparison, I know, but when I read Isaiah 40 I can’t help but think of Buddy the Elf.

“A voice cries:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all flesh shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken’” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

This verse has been taken several different ways throughout its History. From the perspective of most of the Jewish people who would have originally read it, it would have been good news that God was going to bring them home after they had served their time in captivity. They were to make a clear path in their community and in their hearts for God’s return as their Lord and Savior. Other people of the Jewish community saw this as a Messianic Prophecy, speaking of the promised anointed one who would return God’s people to the Glory they had known under David and Solomon. In this case, Isaiah 40 was a call to prepare the way for God’s Kingdom which would cause all other kingdoms of the world to kneel. The Gospel writer Matthew states, through the Spirit, that this verse refers directly to John the Baptist who “prepared the way” for Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 3:3). But like most verses, there are personal applications for us – even if we aren’t Jews who are being exiled or men in the wilderness living on locust and wild honey.

The image this verse conjures up is of a herald. A man who would go ahead of the king or ruler and clear the road for him. As the conquering king would return to his city, the Herald would run ahead and clear the way and shout to all who would listen, “The King is Coming! Make way!” Yes, this was the calling of John the Baptist, but it’s also our calling. We are to be heralds of God’s gospel. We don’t want there to be any hardness in us or any bumps in our relationships that will keep the King from being able to make it to his destination. We need to prepare our hearts to receive Him, we need to prepare our community to be ready for him. Being ready to celebrate Christmas means more than making sure our shopping is done and the presents are wrapped and the food is cooked. It also means fixing anything in ourselves or between us and others that might keep us from missing the true gift of Christmas!

“Go on up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of good news;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good news;

lift it up, fear not;

say to the cities of Judah,

“Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9).

Do you see the parallel now? Between us and Buddy, I mean. Christmas is the celebration that God is coming into the world, He is going to live among us, He is stepping into history and changing everything. When Jesus talks about us receiving the Kingdom of God like a child (Mark 10:15), I think he’s telling us to be like Buddy the Elf. We should be just as excited about God coming as Buddy was about Santa coming. We should jump up and down and not be able to control our smile while we shout to all who will listen, “God is coming! I know Him!” We should stay up all night preparing for his arrival by fixing up any areas in our lives that might keep us from seeing Him in our lives! We should have the kind of excitement about God’s arrival that means those around us are forced to either catch the Joy we exude through God’s spirit or to stand in judgment against us for not fitting in with the world around us.

Today ask yourself, “What do I need to do to prepare the way for Immanuel (God with us) in my life? How can I be contagious in my childlike exuberance for the God who is coming? How can I keep from telling everyone I meet, ‘God is coming! I know him! I know him!’”

You are loved!