The coming of Jesus into the world.
The anticipation of the Savior.
The thrill of hope…
The weary world rejoices…
Where there’s hope and rejoicing, you’ll often a period of waiting beforehand.
At Christmas, we tend to be so busy with our to do lists and events and traditions that we often miss the waiting part of Christmas. But our children know it full well don’t they? The counting down of days with paper chains, marking the days on calendars. The eagerness. They can hardly contain themselves as they wait. Sometimes they may express frustration over the wait–not so unlike ourselves when we have to wait for something.
Honestly, most Christmases my heart skips over Advent and but is fully invested and focused on Jesus’s birth. My soul deeply rejoices in Christmas just as the Magi rejoiced the very first Christmas. I’m often moved to tears in worship at Christmas as my heart and mind fill with the significance of Christ’s birth to our world, to my own life.
My warmest childhood memories stem from Christmas traditions and each year, even as a grown woman, I can’t wait for the magic of Christmas morning. I find myself relating to the Magi as I become a cheerful giver of gifts just as they presented their treasures and gifts bowing down before and worshiping the newborn king.
My focus is always on Jesus’s birth. When God becomes flesh. And rejoicing in how that changed everything.
Yet this year I find myself drawn to Advent. To this time before Christmas. The time of waiting.
Perhaps this is God revealing more truths to my heart for the current journey I’m on, this journey of learning to live with an expectant heart. A heart that lives in expectation, in eager anticipation of God alive and at work in my life. But in expectation, there is waiting.
For many Christmases I’ve found myself in a season suffering, having mourned my living daughter during her first and only Christmas not too long ago, to have lost her and my father shortly after the holiday, to have spent the following Christmases with a large part of my heart missing. All those Christmases my heart was looking and waiting for a rescue from the trials I faced.
Slowly my rescue came, and my seasons shifted, as seasons often do, but which we often forget. Yet life is never emptied of its trials is it? Sometimes they’re grand and paralyzing during seasons of suffering. Sometimes in seasons of prosperity they’re smaller, but even so, they can just as easily throw our hearts off and rob us of joy and goodness.
This month I found myself waiting through minor trials. If you’ve followed me on Instagram, you may know that most of this month my kids and I have been sick, which means isolating ourselves to avoid contaminating others with our germs, cancelling plans, and the dreaded cabin fever of being stuck inside for weeks.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been ill for such a long time frame, but it took its toll on me. I found myself waiting and waiting and waiting for relief, for healing. I knew it would come eventually. I knew I had something that would heal in due time… but still the waiting…
Maybe you were or are waiting for healing too. Maybe you’re waiting for something else. For another type of rescue or answer.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been good at waiting. My heart easily falters.
When we’re waiting, we’re tempted to think the rescue won’t come. That we’ve been forgotten, forsaken. We begin to doubt the validity of scripture in our lives. We’re susceptible to the enemy’s lies, and to hopelessness, the greatest lie.
Yet, as I focused on waiting and Advent this year, I wondered how God wants us to spend our times of waiting. Because I know there’s a better way than struggling through the wait.
So here are 3 things we can do when we’re waiting:
1. Be in the Present
Don’t be so focused on the thing you’re waiting for that you miss God’s purpose for you right now, in the present moment. There’s work being done in the here and now. There are small acts of faithfulness that God wants to use to grow your faith. Pay attention to what’s going on around you as you wait. Where God has placed you, who He has surrounded you with, and how He might be revealing Himself to you right now. I’ve found that having a heart of gratitude helps keep me focused on what’s before me instead of the thing I don’t have that I’m waiting for. There’s joy to be found even in the present of waiting.
2. Be in the Word
Spend your time waiting learning about the One you’re waiting on. Often when I’m waiting I feel like God is silent, maybe even tempted to believe He’s absent because of His silence, which isn’t true, and maybe even more lies creep in. Be prepared to combat the lies with truth. Be in the Word. Because being in the Word is being with Jesus.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Tuck away what you learn in your heart for treasures to carry you through the waiting. Waiting is the perfect time for abiding.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
3. Be Hopeful in Expectation
Whatever Christmas is like for you this year, whatever you’re waiting for, whatever you’re expecting, whether it’s for healing to come, a family conflict to resolve, the emotional pain of a trial to end–or maybe it’s something smaller like expecting the perfect time baking Christmas cookies to bring together your whole family or the right gift under the tree to fill a missing piece of your heart–whatever it is, pause it for a moment and align your expectations to focus on the One who we CAN expect.
I received this in my Thrive Moms newsletter over the weekend and the message on expectations is just perfect:
“Where are your expectations today? In the holiday, or in the deeper meaning behind it?
Are you expecting the coziness of the season or the meals around the table to bring peace to your family? Are you hoping that the perfect gift or the holiday memories made will heal the brokenness in your heart? I wish the warmth of this season was enough to bring the peace, the joy, the healing that we all need – but that’s something only Jesus can do. Today, let’s place our expectations in something that lasts far longer than sips of cocoa and presents under the tree: Emmanuel, God with us.”
For those of us waiting on something during this time of Advent as we approach Christmas, let us be reminded of those who waited all those years ago for the Savior to come.
Remember the period of silence. 400 years. God’s people waited through a period of silence that lasted hundreds of years. But He wasn’t absent. And there was a rescue coming.
And let us remember, the rescue, the answer, the Messiah, the King, born, in flesh, lying in a manager, didn’t come as expected.
This Christmas, yes, let us celebrate for the end of the waiting and the arrival of the perfect Gift. For our King who was born in a manager.
But let us remember the period of waiting that there was before. The anticipation. The expectation. And the fulfillment though prophesied seemed so unexpected.
And that the world is still in a season of Advent as we await on Jesus’s second coming. The greatest rescue is yet to come. And God is still at work.
As you wait, for whatever it might be, choose to abide and live with an expectant heart, expecting God’s work in your life, even in the waiting. And by all means, when He answers, when He rescues, when He gives birth to miracles in your, rejoice.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.