Hurry up and wait is an oft-recited theme of life. We wait at stoplights, in doctors’ offices, for phone calls, for tax returns, for holidays, for the weekend. We wait for orders to come in the mail. We wait for results from medical tests. We wait to hear from loved ones and for babies to be born. According to Ask.com, average adults spend 270 days waiting in traffic jams or retail lines in their lifetimes. And yet for all this practice, we are terrible at waiting. We become impatient at the smallest of delays, and long waits can feel like crushing defeats or devastating losses. Ironically, our world of instant entertainment at the click of a button, fast food, and information at our fingertips has removed the need to wait from many of our daily moments, and has made us very inattentive and impatient.
And yet the most common posture we are asked to take as Christians is waiting. Interestingly enough, the season and themes of advent address all of the major losses we can feel while waiting: loss of hope, loss of peace, loss of joy, and loss or absence of love.
When waiting for something—a job, a loved one to know Christ, a child to grace our family, for grief to ease—it is very easy to lose hope that there will ever be a conclusion or resolution to the situation. It is easy to lose the sense of restedness and peace that comes from knowing that God is in control of our situation, whatever it may be, and however wretched it may appear. In the posture of waiting it is difficult to feel joy; it is more likely that we will feel that all is lost, or that the situation is beyond redemption. And in the tidal wave of hopelessness, despair and joylessness, it is very difficult to experience any feelings of being truly loved.
And yet, God chose to be silent for four hundred years between the last prophets and the coming of his Messiah. Those were four hundred very long years.
And yet, God chose not to send a conquering king on a white horse to rescue his people, or a person of great influence to sway the minds of current rulers. He chose to send a tiny baby, helpless and vulnerable, born to a young couple of little import, at least when judged by worldly standards. And he chose to tell the lowest and poorest members of society first, rather than the rich and powerful.
And yet, instead of appearing on the earth instantly, God chose to allow the Messiah to grow in Mary’s womb, for the usual nine months, and then to grow from an infant to a man over 30 years.
And yet, when Jesus began his public ministry, he walked with his disciples for three years before the plan to rescue humans from their own sins was executed on the cross, and then from the empty tomb.
And yet, we wait for Christ to return, and to make right all that is wrong in our world, and to end sin, death and pain. To wipe every tear from our eyes.
Perhaps, rather than constantly looking to the next change, the end of the situation, the answer to the question, we would be better to rest in the situation now. Perhaps the truest, deepest understandings of hope, peace, joy and love come in the midst of our uncomfortable situations, rather than at the end of our difficult roads. Perhaps we cannot fully understand hope until we have experienced hopelessness, and felt the quiet reassurance in our hearts that God is there, and that he can take any experience and use it for his purposes. Perhaps we cannot fully grasp peace until we have felt the peace that passes all understanding in the midst of the raging storm. Perhaps we cannot embrace complete joy until we have experienced the sufficiency of Christ for every situation, no matter how deep or how dark. And perhaps we cannot fully experience the love of God for us until it is whispered to us in the quiet of solitary night, when we feel most alone and abandoned. It is at these times, in the midst of the waiting, the unanswered questions, the unfulfilled desires and our deepest griefs, that God comes. He enters quietly, reaching for the most helpless and vulnerable parts of our souls, and there whispers his love to our aching hearts. It is there that we discover, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the identity of our true saviour, and the true end to our waiting.
This Christmas, as we wait for the days of celebration and rest, may we also rest in our waiting, and allow God to be born into the innermost part of us. May we allow him to whisper tenderly to our broken hearts, and to know the love that has always existed, but first came in human form on that first Christmas so many years ago. God is not remote and beyond, but has come to be with us in the waiting, and to end the waiting. Emmanuel; God is indeed with us.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel by Enya
Prayer: Oh Lord, in the midst of our waiting, help us to be still and rest. Whisper to our broken hearts, and heal our broken places. Help us to know your presence in our deepest darkness this Christmas, and to know you are doing beautiful things with our brokenness. O come, Emmanuel. Amen.
Contributed by Heather Klaudeman