A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Advent is upon us again. Beginning Sunday, December 3rd, many Christians will embark on yet another four-Sunday cycle of waiting, anticipating, rejoicing, repenting, and praying.
We Christ-followers are a waiting people. There are no simple answers to the question, “Why does God make us wait so much?” The Bible is, in many ways, a story of waiting: Abraham and Sarah waiting for the son of promise, Jacob waiting to win Rachel, Joseph waiting to be exalted above his brothers, the Jews waiting to be freed from bondage in Egypt (and waiting again to take possession of the Promised Land), waiting for deliverance in the time of the Judges, waiting for a godly king, waiting on their return from exile, and then waiting through over 400 years of prophetic silence for the Messiah to be revealed. The Jews of the Messiah’s generation waited almost three decades for Jesus to inaugurate his ministry, and then they (in fulfilment of God’s plan, and with help from Rome) killed him. Christ-followers have now waited two millennia for his promised return, ever enduring taunts and jabs from non-believers regarding his apparent delay (see 2 Peter 3:4-5).
Why all the waiting? Honestly, my only response is the answer the apostle Peter himself gives. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9). If you take this passage at face value, we have only waited the equivalent of two days in “God’s time” for Christ’s return. That actually doesn’t take much patience at all. Unfortunately, a thousand years is not like a day for those of us who only, at best, get a crack at about 70-100 years of that time. Moreover, those years can drag on when you are awaiting such a momentous event. Our forerunners in the faith can tell us all about that as well. The good news remains, however. We wait not because we are patient, but because God is patient. The longer he waits, the more who come to faith. I thank God that Christ did not return in the early spring of 1979. Had he done so, I would have missed out on salvation by mere days.
And so we wait, but we are not idle. Adam and Eve were not idle in the Garden, we will not be idle in heaven, and we are commanded not to piddle our time away now. Wasted time is not only a travesty, it is a sin. While we wait, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). Advent is a wonderful season to practice a “working waiting.” So be intentional during Advent this year. Wait, practice patience, seek the Lord, invite the Spirit of Jesus to take up more space in your heart and mind, set aside times for prayer, fasting, studying and anticipating. Practice the faith of Christ. Do good to others, and expect nothing in return. God will meet you in your waiting, and Christ will be formed anew in your heart. It will do you well. I will be waiting with you.
On a final and separate note, for those of you who would like more in-depth discussion on the topic of Sunday’s sermon concerning gender roles in ministry, the church, and the home, join us this Sunday evening from 6:00-8:00 for a four-part seminar, followed by a short Q&A session.
Praying that you will grow deeper in your faith this Advent season.
Grace and peace,