“I’m so done with 2020!” said a friend in a recent conversation. “I’m totally over it.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that sentiment since June or so, I’d be rich. (You, too?)
The whole population is more than ready to put this past year to bed. It’s been a weird one. A tough one. In too many cases, a tragic one.
So it’s understandable that we just want this year to go away. We want life to go back to “normal.” We want to regain what was familiar.
I can’t wait to get with my extended family again.
I can’t wait to go out without a mask on.
I can’t wait until this whole COVID thing is resolved.
And so on.
Patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit, but it’s a hard one for a task-oriented efficiency freak like me.
Yet I’ve been caught by the word “waiting” during this season. It has snagged my attention and will not let me go.
That’s what the Advent season is all about, isn’t it?
Imagine living in ancient Israel over two thousand years ago. You’re poor. Your people are oppressed by the Romans. Life is difficult, dirty, and dangerous.
Still, you’ve been told there is One coming who will rule with justice—One whose kingdom will never end.
You know the prophets spoke many times of this One, and even though He hasn’t shown up, your people count on God to deliver on His promises.
You share a collective hope, an anticipation of peace and righteousness unlike the life you’ve been living so far. Together with all your people, you are waiting—but there is no guarantee the Messiah will come in your lifetime.
I ponder this astounding level of waiting.
This isn’t like standing in the grocery store line until it’s my turn at the checkout. It’s not waiting at a stoplight for a minute. It’s far deeper than being put on hold when you make a phone call.
This waiting is a lifestyle. It requires willingness and patience and sacrifice. This kind of waiting shapes a person even as they wait.
Here’s the thing: when we consistently respond to difficulty with, “I can’t wait for this to be over,” our words reveal a certain degree of impatience and presumption.
Truth is, we have no idea what the future holds. The only thing of which we can be certain is Who holds the future.
As Christians, we can be assured that God is working in us and through us in the most difficult of circumstances. He is using the very thing that makes us uncomfortable to transform us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
I want to develop the habit of intentionally hoping in the Lord rather than kicking against the way things are.
I think of Mary, who, along with her people, waited for the Rescuer and Restorer of Israel. What a shock to hear the angel Gabriel say that she would bear Him!
Of all the pregnancies in history, doubtless none would have elicited more deep reflection in a mother than this one.
After Mary found out she would bear God’s Son, she had nine more months of waiting ahead of her before she saw His face—before she held Him, heard His cry, smelled His sweet baby skin.
As He grew up, she continued to ponder the identity of her unique firstborn.
After twelve-year-old Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem to discuss theological questions with Israel’s teachers,
“…His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 3:51b).
It is this character quality of reflection and deep thinking and prayerful consideration which we do well to emulate.
Mary waited with her people for the Messiah. She waited for nine months for His birth. As she and Joseph raised Jesus, she treasured all God’s words about Him and took note of how these things unfolded.
Mary paid attention. She was willing to stay slow and quiet on the inside. I believe these good choices helped her endure what she had to go through in those agonizing last hours of her Son’s earthly, pre-glorified life—the hours when a sword pierced her own soul (Luke 2:35).
Her willingness to wait and ponder, to be patient, to deeply trust in God, enabled her to rejoice in the end as Jesus triumphed over the grave on all our behalf.
All her waiting, her personal suffering, was so very worth it.
The same goes for us.
This Advent season, what are you waiting for? Are you simply wishing for things to “go back to normal?”
Or are you willing, like Mary, to wait in hope, trusting God that no matter what circumstances look like, He is good, He loves you and He is perfecting you?
As I close this post (originally written for Heartbeat International), let me pray for you:
Abba, this Christmas, help us to remember that you use all things for the good to those who love you—that our suffering is redemptive when we submit to your work in our lives. Teach us to reflect on your trustworthiness as we worship the One who took on human form for our sake. Amen.