The Hard Work of Waiting
Waiting is hard work. Especially for children. And especially at Christmas. I remember with filled with extreme excitement as my sister and I waited for the green light to enter the living room on Christmas morning. My dad had to photo document everything, and we couldn't go in until Captain Photo Op (my dad) had thoroughly docmented the pre-chaos beauty. Though it was only a wait for a few moments, it felt like forever.
Sometimes we have to wait a very, very long time to receive something we hope for. Sometimes we have wait a very, very long time for God's promises to appear. This is what the song Come Though Long-expected Jesus is about. God's people had to wait a long time - many centuries! - for the promise to come to pass. Second, the fulfilled promise was different - but better - than expected.
Look at the words to this song:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.
Israel had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries. This waiting goes back to the garden when God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). The waiting includes Abraham, to whom God made the promise that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). The waiting includes the prophecy Jacob made over his sons that the sceptre would not depart from Judah (Genesis 49:10). There's the waiting of the Israelites in the wilderness, in the promised land, during years of bad kings, during the years of the Babylonian captivity.
This waiting marked the life of Simeon who met Jesus in the temple as a baby and prophesied over. Luke describes him as 'waiting for the consolation of Israel'. This consolation was the comfort God would bring through the Messiah. He was an old man, and finally got to see what the Israelites had been hoping for over many centuries.
The point to draw from all this waiting is that God acts in the fullness of time. Paul explains it like this: 'But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son' (Galatians 4:4). The Lord is never late; he will do what He's going to do, and he'll do it on time.
Second, when the promise came, they were different from what expected. Jesus didn't defeat the Romans, but he did defeat Satan. Paul explains what Jesus: 'He redeemed those under the law that they might receive the adoption as sons' (Galatians 4:5). Jesus did that by becoming a curse so that we might receive his blessing.
This is how Charles Wesley expressed this great truth:
Born to set thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Born thy people to deliver
Jesus was born to save us by dying. In the words of the angel to Joseph: 'she will bear a Son and you will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins' (Matthew 1:21). Through his death, Jesus dealt with sin.Sin is simply breaking God's law; sin is anything wrong from God's perspective. Jesus dealt with sin by bearing the penalty for our sin, even though he was sinless and perfect. He was born to set us free, born to release us from fear and sin, born to deliver us from judgement, to forgiveness and eternal life.
Many other key concepts from the Bible are woven into this song:
- God's Rest:Let us find our rest in thee (Psalm 23,Matthew 11:28).
- Jesus is the Saviour of the Word:Hope of all the earth thou art; Dear desire of every nation(John 1:29, Matthew 28:19, Acts 4:12).
- Jesus is Lord: born a child and yet a King; born to reign in us forever; rule in all our hearts alone (John 20:28,Acts 2.36,Romans 10:9)
Waiting for a piano
I became a Christian when I was six years old. That's when I first heard the gospel and believed in Jesus. Around that time I bumped into the idea that God answers prayer. And so I began praying for a piano. There was a piano at my grandparents' house, and I loved playing the notes and hearing the sounds. My grandmother played, my uncle played, and I wanted to learn how to play. But my family didn't have enough money for a piano, and so I began praying for one.
Not knowing how this worked, I was surprised when I didn't get one on the first day. Or the second day. Or the third ... there was surprising predictability of no piano. But I kept praying - every night before I went to bed, I prayed to God for a piano. And then, three years later, when I was nine, a family gave our family a piano (a Wurlitzer!). Apart from giving me the opportunity to take lessons and learn how to play, there was one big benefit that accrued to my life from that moment:
Although promises are fulfilled through the hard work of waiting,
God always keeps his word.
In truth, nowhere does God promise us pianos. But he does promise that we can trust him, that he answers prayer, and that if we believe we have received, it will come to pass. (Mark 11:24). There may be things in your life you are praying for - work issues, family issues, personal issues, health issues, financial issues. Don't be put off by what seems to be a delay: do the hard work of waiting, for God's promises are worth waiting for.
There is more theological goodness packed into this great Christmas song, but consider these two points of practical application:
- The salvation God has given us in Christ is better than we realise. Too many Christians live like beggars whose father is extremely wealthy. We severely underestimate the glory of the salvation God has given us in Christ.
- If God has been faithful in the past, we can trust him with the future. Remember, the Lord is always on time. If God is faithful with something as big and important as our salvation, we can trust him with the details of our lives.