One of the things I love about the Christmas season, is that it is a season… There is a build-up… there is a time when we have to WAIT for this great day to arrive. In the Church we call this season Advent, and it started a little over two weeks ago. And it’s really one of two holidays that we do that… We don’t have a build up for Valentine’s Day, or the 4th of July, no season of anticipation for Labor Day or Arbor Day. But Christmas we do. From the end of Thanksgiving to Christmas Day we have a month of waiting…
(The only other holiday with this sort of time of anticipation is… Easter – with Lent and Holy Week as the precursor to the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.)
Waiting on the Lord is a theme throughout the Bible. For example, in Psalm 25, David talks about the affliction and loneliness he feels, but he is tempered by his longing for God.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
But in the Christian experience waiting is not a passive exercise – waiting has a purpose. It’s waiting so that we might be prepared for something greater and something better.
In Luke 6, Jesus makes a startling pronouncements to two very different groups of people.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
In the context of this Scripture, Jesus is making a distinction between those who have chosen to follow him, and those who have chosen to reject him. The disciples give up everything… they have made themselves poor, left families and careers… the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day – those who should have been able to recognize Jesus – were instead blinded by position, power, personal glory.
Unlike the disciples, they weren’t willing to wait.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Advent can be celebrated only by those whose souls give them no peace, who know that they are poor and incomplete, and who sense something of the greatness that is supposed to come… God is coming; The Lord Jesus is coming; Christmas is coming. Rejoice, O Christendom!”
Too often Christmas becomes blasé or worse yet boring for people because we are too much like those to whom the “Woes” were pronounced. We are full, we are rich (some more than others), we are engrossed in entertainment… and in all of it we forget that Christ came to pronounce something greater – His Kingdom come!
Bonhoeffer reminds us that while we celebrate the yearly Advent we are also in a holding pattern, a daily Advent, waiting for the return of Christ and the completion of the Kingdom he inaugurated more than 2,000 in a quiet town in the Middle East.
How will we manage our waiting? With boredom or anticipation? With cynicism or hope? With passivity or preparation?