Remember the agonizing wait for Christmas morning as a small child? It was nearly unbearable! The presents sitting under the tree taunting you with their shiny wrapping and glittering bows. My sister and I would shake each gift in hopes of deciphering the contents inside. It never worked. Mom was too good at disguising each gift with packages of bolts and screws to throw us off the trail! Sometimes my sister and I were cute enough (or annoying enough) to convince my parents to let us open a present early. I’ll never forget unwrapping Pound Puppies on the 23rd. It was AWESOME! And yet, there was a let down as well as the rest of the presents still mocked us from under the tree.
Advent is all about waiting. The fourth Sunday of Advent is upon us and frankly, I haven’t spent enough time waiting! Instead, my life becomes a crazy, busy, stressful mess each December and I’m just hoping and praying Christmas doesn’t come too quickly. I know I am not alone. December flies by and I crash into Christmas. I’ve lost the art of waiting. The Israelites were professionals when it came to waiting. They waited for the coming Messiah for hundreds of years. Not months, not years, not decades, but CENTURIES!
David cried out, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope (Psalms 130:5).” While in captivity in Babylon, Isaiah proclaimed, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him (Isaiah 8:17).” Only a remnant believed, the rest had lost hope. In fact, for four hundred years, the remnant became so small that Scripture is silent. The hope for a coming Messiah was nearly lost, the waiting had become too much to bear. But even during this apparent hopelessness, the heavenly hosts held the hope for the world. Look at Romans 8:19-22, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
I imagine angels, cherubim and seraphim eagerly watching over the world like small children keep watch over the Christmas tree.
We too must regain the ability to wait with eager expectation. The kind of waiting that is narrowly unbearable. The kind of waiting that leads to only the greatest of joys and celebrations. Waiting is difficult, but the end result is incredible. One year I convinced my sister to tell me what was inside each of my gifts. It ruined Christmas. There was no surprise. No expectation. No eager anticipation. Christmas is just days away, so may we live out the desperate anticipation of the coming Messiah. May we learn to long for Emmanuel, God with us, like a small child longs to open their gifts on Christmas Day.
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:23-25)