Waiting is a difficult task.
My family, both as a child and even still today, has the habit of wrapping Christmas presents early and sticking them under the tree as we count down the days until Christmas morning. And I have been known, especially as a child but even some still today, to peek under the tree to see if any gifts are for me. I don’t shake the gifts, although I may have some as a child, and I’ve never opened a gift early, but I enjoy trying to determine what is in the beautifully wrapped package. The hardest thing, at times, is to wait until Christmas morning to open the gifts. It’s hard to see the present easily accessible, and yet have to wait to open the gift. Waiting is a difficult task.
During this season of Advent, as Christians and the church we learn to wait. We wait for Christmas morning when we will celebrate the birth of the Son. We wait for peace to come on earth, and for the angels to sing joy to the world. We wait for the moment when history will change forever, when the Kingdom of God will break in to history in earth shattering ways. We long for all to be made new and right. We wait.
We not only wait to celebrate the birth of Christ, but we wait for the return of Christ. We wait for God’s arrival again. We wait for the second coming. We wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled when the lion will lie down with the lamb, when all of the children in the world will be cared for, or when evil will be destroyed. We wait for sickness, pain, and death to be no more. We wait for the moment when a voice from Heaven proclaims, “Behold, I make all things new!” As we await the birth of the child, and the joy of Christmas morning, we long with groaning as in the pain of child-birth for the Christ to come again and make all things new.
It’s so hard to wait. It’s hard to wait when we see evil continue to run rampant. It’s hard to wait when the news is filled with death and destruction. It’s hard to wait when we believe and trust that God has the power to change any moment at any time. It makes us want to scream, how long Lord? How long Lord, until no more children suffer bus crashes? How long Lord, until wild fires no longer destroy property and homes? How long Lord, until there is peace between nations, peace between communities, or even peace between individuals?
It’s so hard to wait. Yet the promise that was given to the shepherds is that with the birth of the Christ child, peace had come to earth. We bring you good news of great joy, the angels announced. This very night, God has come in the flesh. This very night, history has changed. While the power brokers in Rome, or even Jerusalem, sleep unaware, the true King has come to earth. And the wise men will follow the star to welcome his birth, because this birth changes the course of history, this birth changes the world forever. It’s so life changing that it’s even visible in the stars for those with the knowledge to study and search.
And the same promise that was true in Bethlehem that night is still true today. While the rest of the world sleeps, God is right now making all things new. Christ has come, and the course of history is forever changed. But Christ will also come again; it is a sure and true promise. When Christ comes again, he will make the world right. Evil will be destroyed, death will be destroyed, and those washed in the blood of the Lamb will be saved.
That is the moment we wait for, we wait in eager anticipation. We look for the signs in the Heavens, and we live into the new reality. Our ethic becomes characterized by love and service as we long for the coming of King, and the moment when he will finally put every other ruler under his feet and reign forever and ever.
It’s hard to wait. But every year, as I wait for the Christmas presents to be opened, eventually Christmas morning arrives, and the joy of new gifts is realized. Just as our wait for Christmas morning always comes, our wait for the return of Christ will come, and in that truth we hope, and rejoice. Because it will come, we eagerly anticipate it’s coming, and live into that reality even now.