In this Advent series of posts, we have been exploring the various themes of the season and looking ahead to the coming of Christ -his birth as a baby and his return as King. Today, on this eve of Christmas Eve, we will wrap up by looking once more at the value of waiting.
There is a paradox in waiting. We tend to view waiting as an inherently negative thing because waiting implies the absence of something. We don’t have that thing we are saving our money for so we have to wait; we aren’t sitting on the beach on vacation so we have to wait through weeks and months of winter; we aren’t yet at home in God’s presence in a world free of sin or grief or pain. So we wait. Waiting isn’t the most fun we’ve ever had. We think if we could snap our fingers and get what we want, all of our problems would be over.
But would that really solve our problems? Is waiting really all that bad? I think there is something to desire for a thing that contributes to its joy; the joy of anticipation contributes to the satisfaction of realizing that which we have waited for. If you take away the anticipation you take away from the joy. This is really hard for us to see because we are impatient, entitled and spoiled. But getting what you want all the time actually makes you less happy. Waiting sets us up for the win of getting what we want and need.
And that’s what makes Advent special. Instead of running from waiting or complaining about how it’s “just the worst,” Advent invites us to embrace the waiting as part of the process of becoming who God is calling us to be. Nicky Gumble said,
“Who you become while you are waiting is as important as what you are waiting for.”
Things that shape our character are often uncomfortable. But there are no shortcuts to strong character. Often the things that are the most rewarding require the hardest work (and are hard to work for). But the payoff is worth it.
So I encourage you to have joy as you wait. Savor the anticipation. It helps to consider the unlikely nature of the Christmas story. Jesus, the only Son of God, being born of a virgin in a stable, growing up to be revealed as the Messiah, crucified, buried, resurrected, now the reigning King awaiting the perfect moment to return and establish his throne on the earth. I don’t have math complicated enough for the likelihood that all those events would line up (those kinds of equations are well beyond my understanding). If, after all the waiting for the Messiah, God cares enough to send him to be born in Bethlehem, it means that he also cares about you and me and our predicament. He cares for us while we wait and is forming us in the process.
Don’t forget that waiting is part of the joy. Anticipation makes realization even sweeter, even if what we are anticipating will only come when Jesus’ second Advent arrives and he makes all things new. The invitation to us is to experience the moments of the present in light of tomorrow’s bright future. For he will surely remember his mercy to those who fear him (Luke 1:50).