Waiting for God
As we enjoy this Advent season, as we wait for Christmas, Mark Fairweather-Tall reminds us that waiting is an essential part of our Christian experience.
Imagine playing a simple word association game and saying the first thing that comes into your mind to go with the following words: bacon and ….; fish and …..; Morecombe and …; salt and …….
How many answered: bacon and eggs; fish and chips; Morecombe and Wise; salt and vinegar? Put another word in: ‘advent’. What would your first response be? Maybe it would be ‘Calendar’ or ‘candle’ or ‘wreath’? I wonder how many would say ‘preparation’ and ‘waiting’?
At the heart of advent is the idea of expectant waiting and preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the Christian hope of the return of Jesus at the second coming.
We might be comfortable with ‘preparation.’ Christmas preparations are in full swing in our household right now: present buying, card writing, tree decorating, advent calendar opening, school performances, Christmas fayres and so the list goes on! And as all this is happening, naturally the excitement is mounting, especially for the youngest members of the family.
Shops help us to prepare for Christmas and encourage us to do so in plenty of time. This year Selfridges in London opened its Christmas display in early August, 137 days before Christmas Day. Whilst many were still enjoying holidays and thinking more about the beach than Christmas, the shops were happy to help us be prepared for Christmas. Yes, ‘preparation’ is something we can be comfortable with.
‘Waiting’, though, is a different matter. Most of us don’t like waiting and society works towards eliminating this as much as possible. We have fast food restaurants so that we can eat straight away; instant meals that can be put in a microwave and ready in just a few minutes; bank loans that encourage us to have what we want right now without the need to save and wait. Last Christmas Day people spent over £3 billion shopping online, rather than having to wait until Boxing Day for the sales. We are a ‘now’ people for whom waiting is an unwelcome intrusion.
And this can impact on our Christian faith. When we bring our prayers to God, we expect Him to respond ‘now’ in a tangible way; If we believe God is calling us to something, we want that to be ‘now’ and not in the future; if we don’t understand what God is doing we want it to be revealed ‘now’ rather than live with mystery.
Yet, as we read through Scripture, time and again we discover the reality that people have to ‘wait’: Abraham and Sarah had to wait for the birth of a child; Joseph had to wait to be rescued from unjust imprisonment; the Israelites called out to be rescued from slavery to the Egyptians and had to wait; then they wandered in the wilderness for forty years before inheriting the Promised Land; David had to wait after his anointing to be king and had to run from Saul who was trying to kill him; the Jewish people waited for hundreds of years for the Messiah to come. Yes, waiting truly is a common spiritual experience.
Waiting may not be popular, and it may not be easy, but it is a reality. Advent reminds us that as we wait we can have confidence that God is with us. In Matthew’s gospel we are told, “The virgin will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us)” Ch1:23.
And Advent reminds us that we can trust that what He promises will happen. Paul tells us: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so, through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20.
So this Advent, perhaps we can join David, who wrote in Psalm 27:13-14, in saying: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Rev Mark Fairweather Tall is the Minister of Norwich Central Baptist Church.
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