Advent: December 2
For hundreds of years, word had been spreading: of a Messiah, coming to redeem Israel. It was a waiting game like no other. Can you imagine what they experienced? Just waiting around for something to occur for years and years? In a way, you probably can. This side of heaven, aren't we all waiting?
We wait for the light to turn green. We wait in line. We wait for the table to be ready, and then for the food to come out, and then for the check to come. We wait for the oven to preheat. We wait for the microwave to beep. We wait to get married, and some wait longer than others. We wait and wait for children, and some of us wait a long time. We who have AT&T for WiFi wait on hold for a decent portion of our lifetimes. We wait for our families to feel less broken. We wait to find community. We wait for our prayers to be answered. We wait for some sense of redemption. Every single one of us has to wait.
Whether you're waiting on the package to deliver or God to deliver you from a situation, what we can probably agree on is that waiting is hard. It can feel lonely, heavy, dark, and honestly, frustrating. And it is really difficult to be present in a season of waiting when we are constantly dreaming of and longing for what's next.
But what if we really trusted that God uses seasons of waiting?
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands. But there is none of this passivity in scripture. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing. That’s the secret. The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”
The prophets were these waiting people. They believed the seed had been planted. And in their waiting, God used them to prepare earth to receive her King.
Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Later, he prophesied in Isaiah 9:6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Micah prophesied in Micah 5:4–5: "And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace."
There wasn't merely one mention about Jesus in the Old Testament; there were several, by different authors and placed in different books. Jesus was coming, and with anticipation, the prophets were spreading the word. They didn't spend this season of waiting by kicking back, laying low, and festering on the couch. They weren't like, "I have arrived, oh and one day Jesus will too." In their waiting, God was preparing.
The verbiage in these prophecies is also significant: "The Lord himself will." "He shall stand and shepherd." "The government shall be upon his shoulder." "He shall be their peace." There isn't an "I'm pretty sure" or "Well that's what she told me" or the classic Olivia Thames line of "I may have dreamed this." The hope the prophets professed was hope that was fixed on Jesus. They were sure of the promises God led them to proclaim.
God's faithfulness to keep His promises is the same hope we cling to this Advent, years and years after those prophecies were first foretold. Down to the details, amidst many years and words from different messengers, God was true to His word. Will that not be the case today?
Does He not have a plan outside of your preferred timeline? Does He not have purpose behind the waiting you are experiencing? Does He not know the hairs on your head (Luke 12:7) and the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4)?
Millennium after millennium, generation after generation, year after year, and minute by minute, God is worthy of our trust. This is hope for the waiting: for the one waiting for a husband, for the one waiting for a baby, for the one waiting for a new job, for the one waiting for community, for the one waiting for healing. As we wait and as we are reminded of prophecies of old and even our own testimonies right now, we can find hope in knowing that God is always at work.
Today, as we wait for many things, but mostly, for another prophecy to unfold, we have the opportunity to wait with hope fixed on the God who has always been faithful. We wait, for sure. But not without hope.
Like the prophets testified, Jesus was coming. And like God promises to all of us waiting here on earth, He is surely coming again.