Last week, I shared about how I am being extra intentional about savoring the Advent season. I have felt the Lord pulling me to slow down and take the time to consider what He has done for us through the birth of Jesus. As I’ve been practicing my 5 simple ways to savor Advent, I’ve found myself coming back to the same theme of waiting with hope.
Growing up in a Lutheran church, I was familiar with the season of advent as the traditional practice of celebrating the anticipatory time leading up to Jesus’ birth, but it wasn’t until this year that I really thought about what that time of waiting on a savior must’ve been like.
Dating back to the Old Testament, more than 700 years before Jesus was born, God promised His people that one day a savior would come to deliver them. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” But then the promise was not fulfilled for over 700 years.
Putting myself in the shoes of the believers back in the day, I imagine how exciting this promise would’ve been. To know that God had a specific plan to deliver His people from the brokenness and pain in their world must’ve been exhilarating. But then I imagine the waiting process.
Let’s be real, our culture is terrible at waiting. We pick the shortest line at the grocery store for fear of having to wait 5 minutes to check out. Sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office is excruciating. Heck, we don’t even want to wait 7 seconds for a page to load on our iPhones. Yet God’s people had to wait 700 years for His promise to come true.
Thinking about waiting for that long of a period makes me wonder – did they lose hope? Did they doubt that His promise would actually come true? Did they question God’s faithfulness?
The holidays are characterized as a time of joy; a time when families get together, love is amplified, and the ring of hope is in the air. But at the same time, the holidays are heavy as people who are struggling become painfully aware of what they’re missing. The holidays are a dreaded time for singles. Grief feels unbearable, as loved ones are no longer seated at the table. In a time where “be merry” is stressed, pain and sadness shows its ugly head more than ever.
I imagine that people in this heavy place of waiting for whatever it is they’re hoping for (a husband, joy, healing, friendship, a new job) struggle with the same questions. Should I lose hope? Is God’s promise going to come true? Is He still faithful?
What has struck me, above and beyond, this Advent season is this – Jesus’ birth is a concrete example of God’s faithfulness. Yes, it may have taken 700+ painful, broken years, but He kept His promise and delivered a savior. I’ve always been so caught up in what Jesus’ birth meant for the future, that I didn’t fully consider what it meant in regards to the past. For the future - Jesus’ birth was God’s loving plan to save us. For the past – Jesus’ birth was proof that God keeps His promises; that even when it’s not in our timing, He is always faithful.
When you’re right in the thick of waiting, and the struggle is crippling, I know that the thought of being hopeful feels laughable. If you feel the need to roll your eyes as you’re reading these words because your pain is so robust, do it. I know that the struggle truly is real. But, I also know that if we place our hope, trust, and confidence in the God of the universe, we will not be disappointed; He will lead us out of this place, even if it’s not the way we expect.
I’m amazed (and a little perplexed) at how the Lord keeps laying this message of waiting with hope on my heart this season. It seems like everything I listen to or read somehow has this theme woven through it. So, I'm paying attention to it. I'm thankful that the Lord has brought this new perspective to light and I'm working on building a habit of waiting with hope for whatever is to come.
One of my favorite Christmas songs, O Holy Night, proclaims the glory of Christmas in this line - “a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new glorious morn.” I love this line so much because it is a beautifully accurate description of what Christmas means to us. Because of God's faithfulness through Christ's birth, no matter how weary our world is, we have hope worth celebrating.
Whatever place of waiting you find yourself in this holiday season, my prayer is that it would be laced with hope; that Christmas would be a tangible reminder that not only did God send a savior in the flesh but that this miraculous act was a powerful affirmation that He is faithful.
Here are a few of the places I keep hearing this message of waiting with hope. If you’re feeling discouraged in a season of waiting, or want to dwell more on how God fulfilled the season of waiting through Jesus’ birth, check out these resources.
In this sermon Pastor Jason parallels the in Mark 4:35-41 where the disciples are angry because Jesus is asleep on their boat while they are nearly drowning in a raging storm to the difficulty of struggling in seasons of pain or waiting feeling like Jesus is sleeping. In this message Jason reminds us that even when it feels like Jesus is sleeping, He is aboard our boat, He knows the what is to come and He will get us there safely.
In this message, Pastor Matt walks through Psalm 130 describing guilt, pointing to God’s forgiveness and then the hope that comes as a result of living guilt-free. I was encouraged by his words about having hope in seasons of waiting and how he said, “Jesus authenticates our struggles.”
I introduced this resource last week in my 5 simple ways to savor Advent and I cannot recommend it more highly. I have now practiced 2 of Caroline’s Advent flows and each one walks through an aspect of this idea of waiting with hope. It’s been so encouraging and challenging and has brought calm to my busy heart this season.
This book by Ann Swindell focuses specifically on this topic of waiting on the Lord, and finding hope when He doesn't give you what you want. You can read more of my thoughts on this book here. Hearing this message of waiting with hope this holiday season, I kept finding myself remembering encouragement and truth that I had read in Still Waiting. If you haven't read it yet, be sure to check it out.