ADVENT – A TIME OF PATIENT WAITING AND PREPARATION

In that day the people will proclaim, “This is our God in whom we trust, for whom we waited. Now at last he is here.” What a day of rejoicing! [Isaiah 25:9 (TLB)]

giftsMy daughter has become quite adept at hiding gifts from her husband. If she doesn’t, impatient man that he is, he will find the presents and open them early. Clearly, patience is not one of his strong suits. It wasn’t one of Sarah and Abraham’s either. Although they’d been promised a son and many descendants, they grew impatient waiting and took matters into their own hands. Sarah gave Abraham her maidservant Hagar with whom to make a child. Although she made the offer, he didn’t have to accept—but he did. The boy Ishmael was the result of their rashness. Rivalry and strife that continue today in the Middle East was born from that impatience. Like Sarah and Abraham, when my son-in-law knows a gift is coming, he just can’t wait until the correct time to receive it. Fortunately, while his wife may get annoyed when he takes matters into his own hands, his impulsiveness hasn’t resulted in centuries of international conflict.

Consider the Israelites, who for centuries had been waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled with the Messiah—most of them completely missed their gift. Some, tired of waiting, lost faith and hope; they stopped looking for Him. Having anticipated royalty rather than an itinerant preacher, others didn’t recognize Him. Having wanted someone to conquer Rome rather than sin, still others didn’t accept Him. Fortunately, my son-in-law isn’t like the Israelites. Even when he’s unsuccessful in his search for gifts, he never gives up. He knows they’re hidden somewhere and will eventually appear. Luckily, he’s not like the Israelites when he finally sees his gift. If he was, he’d either ignore the package because it isn’t wrapped in fancy paper with an elaborate bow or reject it entirely because it isn’t exactly what he expected. The poor guy would still be waiting for last year’s birthday and Christmas presents.

Like Sarah, Abraham and the Israelites, David also had to wait for God’s promise to materialize. Unlike the others, he waited patiently and never gave up hope. While the various Biblical timelines seem to vary considerably, it appears that after being anointed king by the prophet Samuel, David had to wait as much as fifteen years until being crowned. He didn’t spend that time trying to force his kingship to happen; nor did he sit idly by while twiddling his thumbs impatiently. He wisely trusted God and used his waiting time to prepare for the challenges of kingship by growing physically, intellectually, and spiritually. He was ready to open his gift when God gave it to him.

With Christmas fast approaching, I’m sure my daughter, who is running out of gift concealing ruses, wishes her husband would be more patient. Yet, even if he doesn’t manage to unearth the hidden packages, he knows that on Christmas day his gifts will finally appear. Unfortunately, when waiting on God to act, we rarely have a calendar marked with His delivery date. Needing patience, we can’t be like Sarah and Abraham who tried to make things happen before the appointed time. Needing faith, we can’t be like the Israelites who stopped looking and believing in God’s promised provision. Instead, we must be like David who waited with patience and faith while readying himself for the receipt of God’s promised provision.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. [Charles Wesley]

I am expecting the Lord to rescue me again, so that once again I will see his goodness to me here in the land of the living. Don’t be impatient. Wait for the Lord, and he will come and save you! Be brave, stouthearted, and courageous. Yes, wait and he will help you. [Psalm 27:13-14 (TLB)]