I went back to my home church to preach for the first time in months yesterday. It was the first Sunday of Advent and our theme was “wait.” I had intentionally written a preach that was personal and which, to me, felt quite vulnerable because I included some stories about how things have been for me over the last few months with my mum’s stroke and being away from home. I talked about what waiting in the hospital relatives’ room felt like, what waiting for mum to come home felt like. I asked the question: What does waiting for God feel like?
I think waiting is an interesting concept because it feels so different depending on what you are waiting for.
There are different types of waiting. There is waiting for a bus. Which feels different to waiting for a flight that is delayed. Which feels quite different to waiting for the flight bringing a loved one home for Christmas.
There is waiting for the summer holidays, and waiting for exam results. Waiting for someone to open the gift you carefully picked for them and waiting for the Christmas pudding to soak up enough brandy.
There is waiting for a cure. There is waiting for justice.
But how does it feel to be waiting on God? Is it more like the summer holidays or the GCSE results? If you knew that God was coming tomorrow, how would you feel about it? And what would it look like? What would He look like?
Advent means “arrival.” One of the readings I was asked to use for my preach yesterday was Jeremiah 33:14-16. Jeremiah predicted that a man was coming who would be a “righteous branch from the line of David”, a fair and just ruler who would save Judah and Jerusalem. It was when meditating upon this little piece of Scripture that I had a revelation about Christmas. I think that this, God’s promise spoken through Jeremiah, sounds very neat and poetic and majestic to us when reading the translation. But I started to imagine Jeremiah saying these words to the people. What was that like for them? Good at first, since this man sounds like the perfect solution. But what happened when Jeremiah told them that the man who was coming was the LORD – the great “I AM”, his name too holy to say, his face too holy to look upon without dying? How could they imagine that 700 years later the coming of God would look like an ordinary woman giving birth to a baby in a guest house and laying him in a feed trough while strangers and farm laborers gazed upon his face?
Jesus asked us to wait for him to come again – the other reading was Luke 21:25-36. He gave us some clues about what this would look like, but his main point seems to be about remembering to wait for him. When he comes, we are to lift up our heads and rejoice (verse 28). This is dependant on our recognising him. And our ability to recognise him is dependent on our waiting and the way we wait. We must not turn elsewhere, to things that will make us forget (verse 34). Jesus names drunkenness. I don’t think he is saying we may never have a drink, I think he is asking us not to drown our sorrows. There are a lot of things we can be tempted to turn to instead of waiting for God, who will fulfill our every need. Hannelie and I talked about this on the drive home. Narcotics might be obvious, but what about dependency? Detachment? Sex? Anything can become an addiction, a distraction, some would say an idol.
Jesus is clear that God honours the waiting. For now the waiting is the important thing. Waiting does not mean sitting alone, doing nothing. As my sisters and I wait for my mum to come home we are not frozen in time, unable to live. No, we laugh, we play, we draw closer to each other and become more of a blessing to each other. And while I wait, God has become more and more present to me. I have felt called to the most unlikely things – not to preaching but to doing the laundry, lighting the fire, visiting the hospital. The secret to having joy in the waiting is to lean on God, nothing else. In the waiting I am learning. In the waiting I am trusting.
In the waiting I am constantly surprised by the very realness of God.
You can listen to the preach here.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.