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Advent, Week 1: Waiting Well
During Advent, we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming and anticipate his second coming. In the meantime, we wait. Waiting tests our patience and reminds us of how little control we actually have. How we choose to wait can make us better or bitter.
Kathy Holliday
November 29, 2021

When I was a high school sophomore, a day came when, abruptly, my dad was no longer employed. We didn’t see this coming. Despite a painstaking search and scores of resumes sent out, weeks of unemployment turned into months. A shared, quiet undercurrent of anxiety ran through our home.

As a young believer, I tried to understand how God’s promise to provide all our needs squared with our situation. What did I know for sure about God? To start, nothing surprises him, and nothing is too hard: “…with God all things are possible.” The God of the universe was not AWOL, so I could only conclude God was OK with our situation, even if we were not.

Waking up each day with the same issue hovering like a dark cloud grew wearisome. How long did it take? In hindsight, my answer is “exactly as long as it’s supposed to.” God either is sovereign or he’s not.  As the Israelites cycled through centuries of rebellion, judgment and repentance, God sent prophets to assure them a mighty deliverer would come. Generations lived and died with no sign of his appearing. Yet the promise wasn’t withdrawn. It remained valid even through 400 years of God’s silence between the declarations of Malachi 3 and the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. Strange timing.

Yet, Paul tells us in Romans 5:6 that “at just the right time, while we were still powerless”, Jesus atoned for our sin. Focusing on a current problem instead of on “the God of all comfort” can distort how we see God; we shift from who he is to what he isn’t doing for us at the moment. God does not change. When our trust in him wanes, it always has to do with our perspective.

Attentive anticipation

There is a difference between “waiting” and “waiting on God.”  The first is marking time. The second is attentive anticipation. When we keep company with God, we enter privileged territory. Flawed and finite, we still bear his image, and he still desires relationship with us.

While inhabiting God’s waiting room, we can grab hold of truth we might not learn any other way. Waiting and, then, witnessing how God met my family’s need all those years ago added to his track record in my young life. For 13 months, I saw my dad enter each day purposefully, attending to household needs or methodically pursuing his job search. He kept on, despite not seeing what God was up to. Need doesn’t equal panic. When we do our part and trust God to do what only he can do, we find peace.

The day came when Dad was offered a job fitted to his experience and expertise. It had been coming all along; we just had to shake off the tedium that accompanied our impatience. Having learned that my dad got a job, a dear family friend pulled up to our house and burst out of her car, champagne bottle in hand, ready to rejoice with those who rejoice. That was a lesson, too. How much greater is the rejoicing when a prodigal returns home, a lost coin is found or a hoped-for arrival comes as promised.

Proverbs says: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Blessed assurance

At Advent, we revisit and prepare our hearts for something that has already happened. First, it’s a reminder that waiting is part of life down here. Not seeing progress doesn’t mean God has deprioritized us. Applying this truth to today’s problems is one key to being transformed into Christlikeness. Second, it’s a reassurance that God never speaks falsely. What he has prophesied will come to pass.

How can we prepare to celebrate his first coming and to anticipate his return?

  1. Begin with God and what he says about himself: “For I the Lord do not change.”
  2. Be assured that when he wills or allows something, he has a purpose for our good and his glory: “…in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.” You don’t have to be persuaded; you just have to trust.
  3. Know that while we wait, God works. Our limited understanding never limits God. He is always at work. We have this on Jesus’authority: “…Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
  4. Rely on the truth of His word. He will return to make “all things new.

There is true value in waiting well. We wait on one who is infinitely worth waiting for. If our plans don’t align with his, we are the ones who need to adjust. Stay focused on who he truly is: the promised one who fulfilled more than 300 prophecies, accomplished his Father’s work, restored us to right relationship with God; and will return to make “all things new.”

Kathy Holliday
Kathy Holliday has honed her skills in coffee drinking, writing, and editing since the previous century. Wife to Bill and mother of five, she is also a delighted mother-in-law and is owned by a Scottish terrier named Harriett.

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