As children, we fidgeted through the advent season. Those ribbon-locked packages peeked from under our Christmas trees as if teasing us. Some of us, not to be named, might have failed this test of patience and suffered the consequences.
Christmas tests our patience in more serious ways as we mature. The hustle of the season presses us to wish it away sooner. Stress, heartbreak, and unrealized dreams intensify our aches. As we trudge through the wait-land, our steps seem to get us no closer to the hope we once held with confidence.
Oh, Immanuel, let us feel your presence. Soon.
Across the generations of all who crept toward the celebration of God with Us, the suffering of our wait proves universal.
God’s people suffered four centuries without a word from the Lord before the arrival of the Word made flesh. Many lost hope and missed the signs of Christ’s coming. Even with the star blazing in the sky and shepherds heralding the message of angels, the consequences of lost patience left much of Israel to despair of faith.
In the pending months prior to the Messiah’s birth, Mary must have ached in her time of waiting, too. She faced persecution and shame from her neighbors and the strain of an unconsummated marriage. The long trek from her home town to Bethlehem would have brought emotional and physical discomfort during her final month of pregnancy. Though she knew the son of God would arrive in nine months–or so–can you imagine how long each of those days might have seemed? Or how unsuitable the arrival must have felt, when she was forced to bring the Messiah into the world in a stable?
As I struggle with my own period of waiting this year, I remind myself of advent’s ancient message. My patience fails when tested on its own strength. But if I submit to God’s strengthening of my faith in this wait-land journey, He can fortify my faith. The reward will prove more than worth the labor of my wait.
For this is the culmination of all our minor suffering–the Lord who came to suffer far more greatly on our behalf. Life, eternal life, comes to us as the greatest gift of all. Wrapped in swaddling ribbons and tucked in the humblest spot for all to reach.
God. Is. With. Us.
During the wait. After the wait. He never truly lingers out of reach, no matter how far our struggles make Him seem. So, if you’re waiting this advent season, hold with me onto the brilliant hope of Immanuel. Let us rejoice in the faith-fortifying potential of advent as we believe in the miracle of Christmas’ blessings.
Merry Christmas, my friends.