This month we celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Greatest Gift and Gift Giver ever given to humanity.
BUT (and this is a pretty big BUT) Jesus didn’t arrive without a wait. 400 hundred years of silence filled the gap between the last prophecies of the Old Testament and the arrival of Jesus in the New Testament. For 400 years, God’s people waited for a Messiah to bring them salvation from the oppression and brokenness they were experiencing. Now, it’s worth noting the obvious: 400 YEARS OF SILENCE is a long time to wait!
Most of us don’t like waiting. In fact, I would dare to say none of us really like waiting. Sure there’s the occasional butterflies in our stomach and giddy excitement we can feel in waiting. Like the way I felt in the final days before walking down the aisle and saying “I do” to my husband Ben a couple years ago. Or how some kids feel when they try to fall asleep the night before Christmas wondering and anticipating what spectacular gifts will be under the Christmas tree for them in the morning.
But that’s not usually how waiting works. And it’s certainly not always how waiting feels.
Growing up, my mom always picked my sister and me up from school. She was never late. When the school bell rang, we knew exactly where she’d be parked waiting for us in our old blue minivan. When we opened the van’s sliding door, without fail, she’d always respond the same way, “Hi, sweeties! How was your day?” And you know, even though she said it every day, it always seemed genuine. It was a little slice of comfort in the day. No matter how great or bad our time at school was, we could always count on Mom greeting us with a dose of warmth and affection.
There were a few times growing up though, when my mom would get a case of what the doctors called ‘phlebitis in her legs’ which meant she had to stay in the hospital for a few days. Those days, my dad would pick us up. My poor dad, working full time and long hours, while also having to take on the responsibilities my mom knew in our household like the back of her hand. It must have been hard on him, and he always seemed frazzled and tired during those times. But when you’re a kid, you don’t really see how hard your parents are trying. You just know what’s missing, and we missed mom.
We felt it most when the school bell rang. My father would try his hardest to be on time rushing from work, but he never was. In fact, most of the time, we were the last kids to get picked up from school.
Being the last kid standing doesn’t feel good. You feel weirdly forgotten and embarrassed and unsure. Logically, we knew dad would show up eventually, but emotionally we felt like he forgot about us.
Let’s be real. That’s more like how waiting feels, especially when it comes to the big things in our life. Yes, on paper most of us know that God is good and that He hasn’t forgotten about us. When in the middle of a wait though- waiting for an answered prayer, provision, a dream fulfilled, for some clarity, that promotion that’s been a long time coming, for our family to experience salvation, for that future spouse we’ve been longing for, to get pregnant and each month that passes by being even more disappointed that we’re not, for all the work to pay off in a career move, for the intense feeling of grief to pass, for the tough season of inner healing and mending to be done already. Waiting… well, it doesn’t really matter what Sunday school answer we tell ourselves, we still feel like the kid whose dad forgot to pick them up.
Which is why the message of Christmas is such a powerful one. It says, “Yes, sometimes the wait is really long, but promises will be fulfilled. Salvation will come. Healing will happen. Hope will be fulfilled!” Christmas is Heaven’s loud, joyful, hands-waving-to-get-our-attention-type message in the middle of our waiting: DON’T GIVE UP! DON’T LOSE HEART. GOD IS WORKING!
So this one’s for the ones waiting. Here’s a few simple reasons you, friend, can take heart while you wait:
God works while we wait.
After Jesus’ birth, the infant King was circumcised and presented to the temple (which was Jewish custom), when a man named Simeon saw Jesus and prophetically spoke. Here’s how Simeon’s moment in scripture unfolds:
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
-Luke 2: NLT
Which you have prepared for all people. God was not taking an extended vacation during those 400 years of silence. God was not ignoring the needs of humanity or wasting time before Jesus’ arrival. He was preparing. He was working.
There is some truth to the phrase, “Good things take time.” We can’t always expect fast-food timing on what God intends to be a true feast of blessing for us. Just because you perceive inactivity from God, friend, doesn’t mean He isn’t working on your behalf.
We don’t miss out by waiting on God.
We live in a world of serious FOMO. It’s easy to become frustrated by the mundane that feels more like a waste of time than an adventure, especially exposed to so many highlight reels on social media. It’s tempting to believe God is wasting our time when He doesn’t answer prayers as quickly as we’d like or not in the way that we had hoped for.
It takes a lot of humility to realize we aren’t actually qualified to run the universe, and that God knows better than we do on all things. There is always intentionality to His timing. And if we can understand that His timing is a form of His blessing, then we are able to move beyond our frustration and be present and in the moment- thankful and grateful for where we are.
God is with us while we wait.
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
-Matthew 1:22-23 NKJV
We serve a God who chooses to be with us! Your wait may feel lonely, but you are never alone. God is with you. He is Immanuel for you. He can sustain you, comfort you, strengthen you, encourage you and bring you greater joy and peace than even the thing you are hoping for could bring.
Our character is refined while we wait.
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
-James 1:2-4 MSG
This doesn’t sound great, does it. But it doesn’t make it any less true. There’s a maturity God wants to develop within us, and that usually doesn’t happen when everything is going our way or exactly as we want it to. It’s in the testing, the challenges that we lean on God intentionally, we seek Jesus differently, we surrender the things we need to. In short, spiritual growth happens in the waiting. And sometimes, the reason we are still waiting for certain things is because we aren’t yet ready for the things God is preparing for us. He’s preparing a way for us, but He’s also wanting to prepare us for what He is preparing for us! There’s kindness and protection to His timing.
A heavenly irony is taking place as I write this blog. Right now I myself am waiting on a couple crucial things. I want them more than I’ve wanted anything in a long time. These things are deeply connected to the dreams in my heart and, I believe, the plans God has for me. I pray about them every day. I see other people who have what I’m yearning for and I celebrate with them, but sometimes their joy is a stinging reminder of my longing not yet fulfilled.
But I’m learning in the waiting that I’m becoming more and more of who I want to be for when these desires are fulfilled. A purifying and refining is shaping my heart. And perhaps that’s the greatest reward of waiting. I not only get to walk with Jesus everyday, I get to become a bit more like Him, even with my imperfections and all!
I hope you can see who you are becoming in the wait. And I pray that you let Jesus lead you in the waiting so you could become more and more of who you are destined to be in Him.
And finally, we can take heart because…
Jesus will return one day in all His glory and set all things right.
Advent is not just the celebration that Jesus has come, but also that He will one day return. We don’t know when, and if anyone tells you they do, run. Jesus did promise us though that one day He will come back in all His glory and once and for all set everything right. Though we don’t know the day or the hour, we do know that He will come. Whether that happens in this lifetime or 10,000 years from now… either away we have the hope of Heaven within us.
What is not made right in the here and now (and there are a lot of things not right in our world!) will be made right on the other side of eternity. One day, we will each will stand before Jesus and experience eternal life. He will wipe away every tear, and we will join Him in everlasting joy. We will be welcomed by the arms of Heaven. No matter what hardships we endure here on this earth, no matter what groanings of humanity’s brokenness we wait in, we can hold firmly to this eternal hope.