Christmas is an exciting and joyous time. There is so much joy brought into our lives this time of year—parties, family, lights, decorations, and even shopping for presents. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? Absolutely.
But Christmas is also about longing, waiting, and hoping. The weeks leading up to Christmas tell a story of expectancy. For the culture around us, many are anxiously waiting to open presents or visit Santa Claus. As Christians, we are waiting for a great celebration—the birth of our Savior.
Weaved throughout the Bible is this common theme of waiting. It is present in the individual stories of the Patriarchs and in the corporate stories of the Israelites and their hope for a Messiah. In the New Testament, the waiting looks a little different. Messiah has come, but it’s not the end of story.
We are still in a period of waiting for his return, for his second coming. Advent is an already, but not yet. Our anticipation for his return is not unlike the anticipation many Jewish people felt as they waited, and waited, and waited, for Christ to come. And our longing for final restoration joins us with the righteous Jewish men and women from long ago.
While we are waiting corporately for the return of our Lord, we are also often in seasons of waiting in our own life. Whether big or small, waiting is difficult and often very painful at times. The story of Christmas provides us with wonderful reminders and examples of what it means to wait with biblical expectancy.
As I’ve thought about how the Scriptures define waiting well, two different types of waiting come to mind:
-Bitter and indifferent
-Expectant and hopeful
The Israelites as a whole fell into the first camp. John 1:9-11 says: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
Years of hardening their hearts and following false gods blinded their eyes to see that who they were longing for had come. Some simply didn’t care. This bitterness and indifference, fueled by despair and giving up after years of waiting, led them to miss Christ’s first coming. It began with many years of mistrust of God’s good plan for them, led to indifference when his plan was fulfilled, and ultimately led them to kill the One promised to them. They did not wait well.
The expectant and hopeful were fewer in number, but given special attention in the Bible. They were Simeon, Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Anna—all people who were longing for the Messiah’s birth, but did not give in to the temptation to fall away and serve the gods of this world. They held on to hope, trusting that God always does what he says he will do.
It’s much easier to fall into the first camp of bitterness and indifference. When you spend your entire lifetime waiting for God to fulfill his promises and still don’t see them met, the world around you seems a lot more promising. In long seasons of waiting the temptations to sin are great. The Jewish people had grown so cold and bitter towards God that they missed his ultimate work in the sending of his son.
Lest we too miss Christ’s work, we must wait well. Waiting well sometimes mean going your entire life without seeing the fulfillment of his promises for you this side of eternity, but you trust him anyway. Waiting well means holding on and trusting even when his promises aren’t met until you are advanced in years (like Zechariah and Elizabeth), yet you believe in his good and perfect plan anyway. Waiting well means trusting God’s purposes even when your life and reputation are in jeopardy (like Mary and Joseph). It’s hard to wait well. It’s costly to wait well. But it’s essential to wait well. Waiting well means we get to see Jesus in all of his glory. Waiting poorly means we miss him, at great cost to our souls.
Regardless of where you are in the waiting process this Advent season, know that you are not alone. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, many who did not see in their lifetime the fulfillment of the promise we now have, yet the hoped in the God who is faithful and true.
How do you wait well this Christmas season? Consider God’s word to us from Lamentations 3:22-27
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”
It is good to wait on the Lord and trust in him alone. Waiting well means trusting in the One who knows the end of our waiting. He will always be faithful.