November 27, 2020

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Waiting can take on new meaning during Advent

Sean GallagherMy five sons learned how to wait at an early age.

They’re constantly asking my wife Cindy and I for things. It might be for things as mundane as a snack or a cup of milk during a meal. At other times, they might want a special toy, to go the library or to have a movie night.

It’s not unusual that when they make their requests, those desires are really important to them and they want them fulfilled as soon as possible.

But since Cindy and I are forced by the nature of our family situation to divide our attention among our five sons and to our duties to the family as a whole, the boys usually have to wait for their requests to be met—at least for a little bit.

Most of the time, they do a pretty good job with it. But not always. They are boys, after all.

Maybe their long practice at waiting is a reason why they don’t go crazy at this time of year waiting for Dec. 25 to come around. (Another might be that we don’t go overboard on Christmas gifts and try as much as possible to put the focus on the reason for the holiday, to celebrate Christ’s birth.)

Waiting is an important aspect during the season of Advent, but one that can be easily overlooked. After all, we know that we’ll celebrate Christ’s first coming at Christmas. And, for good or ill, we often don’t put a lot of spiritual attention on his second coming, so focused as we often are on the here and now.

But that’s not how it was for the people of Israel before the first coming of Christ. God had promised through one prophet after another to save his chosen people from their hardships. Yet times of suffering came upon them again and again—often through their unfaithfulness to God.

So, we see many times in the Book of Psalms the expression of frustration at having to wait for so long for the coming of the Savior.

Psalm 13 shows this exasperation rather intensely: “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look upon me, answer me, Lord, my God!” (Ps 13:1-4).

Maybe 2020 has helped us become more acquainted with this kind of waiting. How many of us wait with eager longing for the end of the coronavirus pandemic? Perhaps we have prayed to God for an end to the suffering of so many people, and then wondered why those prayers haven’t been answered as the pandemic has increased in intensity recently.

Even with vaccines soon to be approved and distributed, it’s easy to be suspicious about how and when life will get back to the way it was before the pandemic hit.

One thing, though, that the coronavirus has not changed and will never change is God’s steadfast love for us. We may have to shoulder heavy crosses for a while in this life, marked as it is by the brokenness caused by original sin. But God never abandons us. This is especially true in our suffering, for in Christ he has taken on himself all of our crosses and suffered for and with us.

Living in the light of this blessed reality might make the difficult waiting during this Advent season easier to bear. Knowing that the babe in Bethlehem came to suffer with us might bring the real meaning of Christmas to the forefront of our hearts and minds in 2020 and help us be more truly thankful for this greatest of gifts. †

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