9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!" 10 See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
A Gift that Keeps on Giving
by Mark Rountree
I remember like it was yesterday. My anticipation and excitement were palpable, my expectations sky high. The question turned over and over in my mind. “What will Santa bring me?” The wait seemed like an eternity. Finally, Christmas morning arrived. My brother and I would run wide-eyed to the living room. And there they were, under the tree. Presents galore! Santa (AKA: Mom and Dad) always delivered. I was happy beyond measure. Giddy beyond belief. After all the waiting, all the anticipation, I finally had in my possession the toy, the trinket or the thing that would bring me lasting joy.
Though decades have passed since I last experienced Christmas morning as a child, those emotions of anticipation and joy remain fresh in my mind. I am forever grateful for my parents who did so much to make Christmas morning so magical. But every time I reflect on the Christmases of my childhood, I also recall another set of emotions. These emotions were delayed in coming, sometimes by a few days, more often by a few weeks or months. Nevertheless, like clockwork, the other emotions inevitably arrived. Let down, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and, as I grew into young adulthood, disillusionment.
As adults, we long ago stopped asking the question “What will Santa bring me?” Instead, we find ourselves asking, sometimes often, “Is this all there is?” It’s understandable why this question is so top of mind, particularly during the Advent season. In our day and culture, Christmas ushers in an idealized version of life, where gifts forever satisfy, expectations are forever met, families are forever together, and happiness and hope forever abounds. In other words, Christmas promises a life that resembles what we see on the Hallmark Channel, 24/7. And yet, reality reminds us, often soberly or suddenly, that life is not this way. Earthly gifts never forever satisfy. Expectations are rarely met. Families are not forever together. And happiness and hope are fleeting at best. Given this, where can we find lasting hope? Is there a “gift” we might receive this Advent season that will bring lasting joy?
Almost 700 years before the first Christmas morning, the prophet Isaiah foretold of a “gift” all of us would receive. In Isaiah 40:9-11, the prophet tells us that we will receive from God a Messiah that will come with power and rule with a mighty arm. This Messiah will be for us a “good shepherd” who will “carry us close to His heart” and gently lead us during all our days. And this Messiah, Jesus, promises “life to the fullest” to all who receive His gift (John 10:10).
My prayer this Advent season is that my heart and mind will be captivated anew by Jesus, the ultimate Christmas gift, a gift that brings a joy that never ends. Joy to the world!
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Mark Rountree currently serves as Chairman for Baylor University's Board of Regents. Mr. Rountree is a partner with Ernst & Young, LLP. He currently serves as national director of EY's Exempt Organization Tax Services practice and EY's Healthcare Tax Practice leader for the Americas. In addition to his extensive financial career, he frequently presents to churches and corporate groups on the topics of leadership, personal finance, and faith.
Mr. Rountree graduated with honors from Baylor with a BBA in accounting in 1986 and a Master of Taxation in 1987. He is a certified public accountant and a member of the AICPA, TSCPA, and the Healthcare Financial Management Association. In 2014, he was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award by Baylor’s Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Honor Society. In addition to establishing endowed scholarships, the Rountree family has financially supported numerous athletic and academic endeavors at Baylor.
Mr. Rountree is married to Debra Lindsey Rountree, who earned a BSEd from Baylor in 1989. They are active members of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. They have two sons: Steven (BBA, MAcc ’19) and Jonathan, a sophomore at Baylor.