Waiting, waiting, waiting…
No one likes waiting. It doesn’t matter if it’s waiting to pay, waiting for a webpage to load, or waiting for a friend to respond to a text, it can be pretty annoying and feel like wasted time. But from 29th November until Christmas Eve the church enters into a whole season of waiting called ‘Advent’.
Culturally Advent has become a month packed full of shopping, wrapping, stuffing our faces with mince pies and yule log, and watching Elf on repeat. Often by Christmas Eve we’re exhausted from weeks of fun but we’ve barely given a second thought to the amazing thing we’re about to celebrate. Because why wait? We like to get stuck in and get on rather than wasting time waiting around.
Perhaps that’s because we see waiting as empty, boring and pointless but Advent isn’t about being bah humbug and delaying the fun. Advent is a time to wait expectantly on God because waiting isn’t supposed to be passive. There are loads of times in the Bible that God had people wait before he gave them what he’d promised. Abraham had to wait until he was 75 before God promised him a son, and then waited another 25 years before he actually became a father. As a young lad, Joseph had a dream about being in a position of leadership but it took many years – and many painful twists and turns – before it came to pass. David was 30 when he became King, something he’d been anointed for when he was a young shepherd boy. (No wonder the Psalms are full of phrases like ‘I wait on the Lord’…) Even Jesus had to wait till he was 30 before he began his public ministry.
Can you relate? Is there something you’re waiting for? Not just for the 25th December to roll around but something you’re longing to see God do? Are you waiting for him to speak? Waiting for him to change a situation? Waiting for a promise to be fulfilled? Waiting for an opportunity to use the gifts God’s given you? There are many times God has asked me to wait, long past the point of it being comfortable or of it making sense to me and I’ve recently been encouraged by these verses:
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Romans 8: 22-25 (The Message)
Wow! Isn’t that amazing? We’re not wasting away as we wait. Doesn’t it sometimes feel like it’s killing us? But as we wait on God we grow, we change and we become more like Jesus. It’s like being spiritually pregnant; we can’t rush the process if we want to give birth to the healthiest of babies. So let’s let go of our culturally desire to want everything now, and ask God to give us patience and passion to wait on him. And when we get exhausted, and run out ways to pray about the same situation that seems like it will never change, let’s take comfort in the rest of this passage:
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Romans 8: 26-28
We’re not on our own! Waiting can feel lonely and we can wonder if God has forgotten us. Especially when we see others getting the things they’re longing for – we want to revert to being toddlers, stamp our feet and say, ‘Not fair! What about me?!’ We get frustrated as we wait but Jesus understands. We get weary but he’s not shocked. We run out of words and rather than being cross with us as we sometimes imagine, he says, ‘Let me pray for you’. God is for us and not against us; he’s with us, encouraging us, cheering us on and giving us the strength to keep going.
So this December, enjoy the chocolate from your Advent calendar, make the most of the festivities and fun, but try and make space to wait on God too. If things feel dark and difficult and you’re aware of the things you’re longing for, think about the people of Israel who were desperately waiting for their Messiah to come. It seemed that God had been silent for about 400 years and his people were oppressed in their own land. They were clinging on to the prophecies of the Saviour who was to come. Take a minute to imagine what that felt like – how painful it must have been – and then imagine hearing the incredible news that God had come to earth as a baby, sharing in our human struggles, ready to die that we might never have to be separated from God again. Now there’s some news worth celebrating! This Advent let’s bring our longings and desires before God, rereading this passage from Romans knowing that God is using even this time of waiting for our good (v28), holding on to the truth that he is for us (v31) and most of all remembering that he has already given us the most precious thing he possible could: his son, Jesus (v32).