December 24, 2016

Christmas Invites Us to Wait…

Written By Cary Schmidt

Decorations are up, trees are trimmed, cookies are baked, gifts are purchased, lights are glowing, music is playing—Christmas eve is here.

We’re making our last-minute runs to the grocery store for a few missing items, or making a quick dash to the mall to redeem that awesome coupon or pick up a final gift or two. Christmas eve is here.

We’re lighting the fire, picking out that Christmas sweater, and preparing to enjoy the love and laughter of family and friends. Christmas eve is here. The waiting, the working, the preparing is almost over.

All over the world young hearts are anxious! Do you remember that feeling? Do you remember being taunted by those wrapped packages for weeks prior to Christmas? Do you remember doing anything you could to get close, touch, feel, smell, shake—all while hoping you wouldn’t get caught? Do you remember the agony of the wait—the anxiety wrapped in anticipation? Sheer delight shrouded in sore discomfort. It was joyful but painful hope—knowing good things were wrapped and prepared for you, but having to wait to unwrap and enjoy them. Who invented this tormenting but terrific tradition?

Truthfully, the Christmas story is, at heart, a story of waiting.

Earth waited for thousands of years for God to enter His creation and crush the head of the serpent as He had promised when creation fell into sin.

Israel, God’s chosen window pane through which He would reveal Himself and His plan to all the earth, had waited for hundreds of years for God to reveal His anointed Saviour who would offer salvation to both Jews and Gentiles.

Bethlehem had waited for hundreds of years, knowing that the Saviour was promised to come from within her unremarkable borders.

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish worshippers had waited for more than 400 years since God’s “last revealed words” to their nation—and rather sharp words they were!

Priests and Levites had waited for hundreds of years, all the while slaughtering thousands upon thousands of lambs and other sacrifices—which, though they could never take away sins, all pointed to an end—a final sacrifice, an ultimate one-time, perfect lamb of God. That Lamb would absorb all of God’s wrath and justice for sin while simultaneously pouring out all of God’s love and grace upon humanity—all in one excruciatingly bloody, extravagantly loving and cataclysmic event.

Sin and Satan would be crushed. The veil would be torn. All of humanity would, once again, be invited to come boldly to God’s throne, and even more importantly, to be spiritually born into God’s family—not only as His servants, but as His children!

This is the wait of all waits! Never has such a world-changing promise been made and kept, and never has waiting been harder than the wait for this promise and all of its implications.

The phrase “how long” appears 53 times in scripture—many of them relating to God asking, “How long will you reject me? How long will you rebel against me? How long will you refuse and provoke me? How long will you pause between two opinions?”

Many others reference mankind asking God, “How long will I suffer? How long will I have to endure this? How long will you forget me? How long will you look on and not intervene? How long will evil prevail? How long will I grieve or cry? How long will we wait for a Saviour? How long will we wait for your return?”

Christmas is a story of waiting. The story of Christmas is the story of God’s cosmic Christmas morning—one in which He goes to eternal lengths to keep His promise, express His love, and reveal to us His master plan, and present to us His greatest gift—His unspeakable gift!

Christmas is a story that invites us into the “waiting.” For God is still unfolding His eternal plan of redemption and grace. He is still unveiling His infinite love. He is still upholding and strengthening, day by day, those who wait upon Him. So, Christmas is a time when we are invited into “waiting upon God.”

What exactly does that mean for us today?

It means we wait—Waiting is not passive, not in God’s economy. No, waiting is active. Waiting is trusting, resting, hoping, anticipating. Like every kid staring at those gifts under the tree, begging Mom and Dad to “let us open just one”; like every parent anticipating the arrival of a grown child coming home for the holidays—waiting is painful but beautifully so! Waiting is the active preparation in anticipation of a “soon-to-be fulfilled” hope! Waiting is the expectation of a close reality.

As Simeon was “waiting” in Luke chapter 2, He was resting in God as Saviour, and He was anticipating God’s fulfilled promise. He was both relying upon and enduring toward. He was patient in saving faith, but also active in living hope.

What is it that you “wait for” today? In a moment, I will be sitting with a grieving widow who lost her husband yesterday; later a young couple at the hospital welcoming their new baby. Maybe you are waiting at a hospital bed or a mortuary this Christmas. Maybe you are waiting for test results or a financial need to be resolved.

Christmas invites us into a different kind of waiting. It’s not just a painful wait; it’s also a hopeful wait. Christmas is joyful waiting, faith filled patience, expectant enduring.

It means we wait in worship—While we wait, we worship. What does this mean? It means we lift our hearts and our eyes toward Heaven, and we extol, honor, magnify, and thank the King of Heaven for His great gift of Jesus. It means we build into our hearts a life-style of extolling and celebrating our great God, even when we do not understand Him. It means we acknowledge Him as God and King and Saviour—even though we are waiting for Him to intervene in some desperate circumstance.

Mary and Joseph, eight days after Jesus was born (Luke 2), left Bethlehem and journeyed to Jerusalem. Why? To worship. They understood, even the midst of a crowded, tax-paying, 90-mile trip marked with an untimely and inconvenient birth, God was at work in these difficult circumstances and He should be worshipped. They weren’t just keeping the law or doing their duty. They weren’t just fulfilling obligation. No, they were worshipping God—expressing love and devotion—by presenting Jesus (Mary’s firstborn) as set apart to God.

Theirs was a lifestyle of worship, woven together in the midst of a difficult life! So, Christmas invites us to worship Jesus from the grip of our hardship. Christmas invites us to extol and acknowledge God from the within the pain of our present. More so, Christmas invites us, as never before, into a walk of worship—every moment, every day, boldly and humbly rehearsing our love and gratitude for our great God and His inexhaustible grace!

It means we wait in wisdom—While we wait and worship, we can also rest in God’s wisdom. I love Anna in Luke chapter two. Having been widowed early in life, she spent the better part of 65 years or more immersing her life in waiting, worshipping, and relishing God’s wisdom. She was a prophetess—which in modern terms might be phrased “She loved God’s word, understood God’s truth, and shared it with anyone who would sit still long enough to listen.”

For this reason, her life was built upon wisdom, and her waiting was grounded in an understanding that God is always at work. When God was silent, His wisdom held her together. When waiting was agonizing, His wisdom anchored her hope. When loneliness was crushing, His wisdom strengthened her heart.

The Christmas story invites us into God’s wisdom—into His story, to live in His grace, see with His eyes, and engage with His eternal purposes. The Christmas story is God inviting humanity “back stage” to see the ultimate reality of His eternal plan and the ultimate fulfillment of His eternal promises.

Christmas is our opportunity to come to Him in faith, trust Him as Saviour, follow Him as friend, serve Him as Lord, and enjoy Him as Father. Christmas is our invitation to labor with Him in the ministry of reconciliation, and to partner with Him in spreading His eternal hope to hungry and desperate hearts!

Waiting is not fun. But opening gifts is! When you devote yourself to waiting, to worshiping, and to wisdom, you are choosing the right path—a path that ultimately ends at the feet of Jesus in an eternal Christmas morning.

Just as children all over the world are waiting today, eager to open gifts—so, if you are a child of God, you are waiting on a Heavenly Father who is operating right on time in your life. Yes, the wait is painful—but it’s not hurtful. Yes, the wait is anxious at times, but it’s not desperate or despairing. Yes, the wait requires patience and endurance, but it is ultimately going to be worth it!

So, this Christmas eve, we wait. We wait to open gifts. More so, we wait for the ultimate gift. We wait for His work to be completed. We wait for Him to return. We wait for Heaven and a new creation and a perfect, eternal kingdom. We wait to see Jesus face to face, to fall on our faces before Him, to have our tears dried by His touch, and to enter a perfect forever with Him—like the best eternal Christmas morning that you could ever imagine.

As you gather with friends and family, whether in PJ’s or a new sweater, whether around a fireplace or a dinner table, remember that this is just a taste—just a sample of a far greater celebration. Wait with patience. Wait with endurance. Wait with anticipation. Wait with hope. Wait in worship and in wisdom.

Like a child, know with certainty that God’s good gifts are prepared and wrapped just for you! Know that your waiting will very soon come to an unimaginable, glorious end!

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)