May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is hard to wait for something we really want. The more we long for it, the more difficult the waiting becomes. The people of Israel waited with hope and longing for the coming of the Messiah for hundreds of years before Jesus was born. We, the people of God, wait with hope and longing for Jesus’ return in glory. And each day we, his children, wait with hope for Jesus to come to us as we seek him with all our hearts. Through the season of Advent we reflect on all three of these aspects of waiting. But waiting is never easy.
When we look around us, just like God’s people of long ago, we see much that is in need of God’s intervention. We see places and situations where we long for God to break in, to reveal himself, to dispel the darkness. We long for him to make things right, to bring healing, justice and peace. In both our world and our personal lives, we long for his coming. So how do we wait well?
If we look back through the Scriptures, we can learn from others who waited with deep longing. In Jeremiah 29:11, God’s people living in exile in Babylon were told, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is a beautiful promise, one that is often read and claimed today . . . and we can be sure God’s plans for us continue to be for good. Unfortunately, this promise did not mean freedom was around the corner for the exiles. To the contrary, they were told to expect 70 years of captivity. And what were they to do during that time? They were to settle in–plant gardens, build houses, get married, have families, and pray for the peace and prosperity of the city. This was not what they expected, nor what they hoped for. But somehow it fell within the realm of God’s good plans for them. Prosperity in exile . . . it puts a new twist on God’s promise.
As we wait for the coming of Jesus, in our world and in our lives, we are also called to settle in. Life may have challenges that we did not anticipate or equate with the future we had planned. But God says to us . . . Live fully where you are; embrace the life I have given you, pray for blessing within the situation in which you find yourself. At times, it may appear that God is not present . . . but while we long for a dramatic coming of the Lord, he most often comes more like that babe born in a lowly stable long ago.
God’s blessing is not confined to what we define as good, nor is it limited by what we define as bad. We wait with hope because we have confidence that at ALL times our God comes to us, our God is for us, and Emmanuel is with us. In the end, Jesus is our hope, and in his presence we find the deepest longings of our heart met . . . in all situations. And so we pray together, Come Lord Jesus.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, open the eyes of our hearts so that we may see you lovingly at work in our real lives. Quiet our hearts in the midst of the bustle of this season, and as we wait on you, fill us with your very presence, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of your Holy Spirit within us. Amen.
Listen prayerfully to Come Thou Long Expected Jesus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbMwD24flbA
Contributed by Pastor Carla Olsen Draper