I don’t like to wait. For anything. And since I rarely practice it, I’m not very good at it. You won’t find me waiting in long lines to get into a popular restaurant or camped out for the release of a new tech device or a movie premiere. Simply put, I’m impatient, and waiting feels like a waste of time.
And I’m not alone. It’s hard for people in contemporary culture to wait for things. Like me, people are busy checking off to-do lists, cramming in meetings and appointments, rushing through experiences to get to the next thing. We are bombarded with messages telling us to hurry so we don’t miss out.
So when we are waiting, it almost feels… well… wrong.
And now, we’ve been stuck in a period of waiting for almost two years.
Without warning, a virus shut down life as we know it. Restrictions, requirements, and regulations placed limits on our lives. And we’ve just been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for it to end, for a new normal, for something other than this.
Now we’re wrapping up the first week of Advent. A time that symbolizes the arrival of the miraculous – but an arrival seasoned with expectant waiting. For God’s people there was great anticipation – and a long wait.
The Christmas story as told in the gospels gives us role models for seasons like this.
In the gospel of Luke, I am reminded of many heroic “wait-ers.”
Zechariah and Elizabeth, long waiting for a child.
Simeon, told he would see Emmanuel before he died.
Anna, never leaving the Temple day or night but sharing the hope of baby Jesus to those who had been “waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.”
I’ve been learning to exercise the spiritual practices of silence, stillness, and solitude. In a word – I’m learning to “wait on the Lord.” To be still and recognize God is working whether I see it or not. To wait for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
There are so many invitations to wait throughout God’s word. Some of my favorites are recorded by the Psalmist and King, David.
In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly. -Psalm 5:3
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14
We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. -Psalm 33:20
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. -Psalm 37:7
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. -Psalm 40:1
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. -Psalm 130:6
There’s something else I don’t like about waiting. It inherently means that something I really want, my heart’s desire, hasn’t happened. And I want it to. Now.
The traditional hymn, “Come O Come Emmanuel” was originally penned in the 12th century by an unknown author and composer in Latin, set to a French melody. The songwriter shared this sentiment:
O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
And now, 900 years later, I wonder: is there an even greater need to learn to wait today? Can we trade the sad divisions and feelings of hopelessness that have defined the past two years with reminders of our Prince of Peace, of God With Us?