I used to believe the month of December lasted longer than all the other months put together. I was hard-wired to look forward to Christmas Day as a child. The waiting was nearly impossible.
Waiting is never easy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re waiting for Christmas, a baby to arrive, or medical results, time slows down. This is hard in our fast-paced world. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer, one of my favourite writers, said:
‘Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly planted the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them… For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing and becoming.’
Mary DeMuth shared with me a time when she was waiting on God. Here’s what she said:
‘I usually think of the immensity of God when I’m waiting on Him, particularly in prayer. One of my longstanding prayer requests involved a relative who was very far from Jesus. I figured God would make reconciliation happen a certain way, forgetting how creative He is. Of course, He did answer—after thirty plus years—but not in the way I expected it. That reminds me that waiting on God also means letting Him be creative. I’m sure those waiting for the Messiah had something very specific in mind when they thought of Him. But Jesus blew all their categories (in the best possible way). Instead of prescribing to God what you expect Him to do, become expectant of what He can do.’
O Come O Come Emmanuel is my favourite Christmas song. I love its haunting melody. The words capture the longing the Hebrew people felt for God to do something.
Imagine the scene, ancient Jews sitting round a campfire in the early evening discussing even older prophecies. They whisper, tell stories and recall promises of hope. They’re watching for a hint of what God is doing. But God has been silent for centuries. They are waiting.
The Hebrew people had an expectation of what the Messiah would be like. They had been oppressed, ruled over and mistreated for centuries. They were looking for a Messiah to bring them freedom. They believed in a political leader.
A baby in a manger was not what they were expecting. And yet, this was how God came. He came to bring freedom, not in a political sense, but from the power of sin.
I have expectations. I want God to right wrongs, bring beauty and peace. And if I’m honest, I sometimes tell God what he should be doing. I’ve got the order wrong. The Advent season reminds me this. It is God’s prerogative to do as he wishes.
‘The incarnation of Jesus Christ is God’s clear demonstration that he will always make good on all of his promises to us.’
We wait with expectant hope, certain that God will do something. We wait expectantly because of a baby, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.