Saturday, December 9, 2017

We are a Waiting People

Expectation. Hope. Anticipation. Waiting.

Depending on whose story is being told, each of these words holds a different meaning:

The prophet Isaiah
Anna and Simeon
Wise Men
The Inn Keeper
King Herod

The story of Jesus’ birth begs to be told from different perspectives. Because when we step into the shoes of someone else, we are given the opportunity to see something new. I don’t have time to write about each of the participants above, so I will let you do the imagining. When you are done, add yourself to the story. What part do you play? What are you waiting for, as you look to the Christ child in the manger?

Merriam-Webster defines Hope as cherishing a desire with anticipation; wanting something to happen or be true. Expectation is defined as looking forward to or anticipating the coming or occurrence with high probability or certainty. Anticipation is a visualization of a certain future event or state. Waiting is to remain stationary in readiness or expectation.

According to these, hope doesn’t seem to hold much certainty. But within God’s sovereignty,  hope and expectation/anticipation co-exist to form a basis for our faith. Hebrews 11: 1 puts it this way: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
And that is what makes Advent so wonderful. It is a glimpse of glory that makes our waiting for the second Advent a little easier. This week I read two articles on the Gospel Coalition website which speak of this better than I can. The first is by Scott James. In the article, “Teach Your Children the Virtue of Waiting,” he puts it this way:

The Christian life is a life of waiting. God’s people have always trusted in millennia-spanning promises—and God has a perfect track record of fulfilling them according to his own timetable. Yes, there are promises for the believer here and now, but so much of redemptive history is a story of future grace passed down from one generation to another. We’re called to wait on his promises and take the long view of faith.

And the first Advent isn’t merely a history lesson; we’re still a waiting people. We have the promise of a second Advent still to come: Christ is coming back to make all things new. The world will tell us we’ve been waiting too long—if it hasn’t happened yet, it will never happen (2 Peter. 3:4–9). But those who abide in Christ will find rest, contentment, and a holy anticipation as we keep up the watch. We say “Come, Lord Jesus” and “Your will be done” in the same breath.  

 And as we do so, there is purpose in our waiting. Timothy Paul Jones focuses on this in his article, “Why Celebrate Advent?”:

In Advent, the church admits, as poet R. S. Thomas puts it, that “the meaning is in the waiting.” And what we await is a final Advent yet to come. Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the coming of the Messiah in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word.

When I recall that there’s meaning even in times of waiting, the question that occupies my mind as I stand in line at the supermarket isn’t whether I’ve chosen the quickest line but how I might invest this waiting in something weightier than my own to-do list.

When I sit in traffic, I’m not merely anticipating a shift of color from red to green; I’m awaiting the coming of Christ, and there is meaning in this waiting.

When I walk hand-in-hand with a dawdling child who stands in awe of common robins and random twigs, there is every reason to join her in worship, for there is holiness in her waiting.

“All happenings, great and small, are parables by which God speaks,” observed Malcom Muggeridge. “The art of life is to get the message.” Advent reminds us to listen for the message God is speaking, even in the waiting.
 We are a waiting people. Whether we are sitting on our hands, or reaching forward in expectation, God is at work in our waiting.


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