There is nothing like the thrill of anticipation. What's more exciting than the minutes before kickoff? Or the roar before a concert? It’s thrilling to wait for something. As gut-wrenching and heart-pounding as it may be, like a groom standing at the altar, some things are simply worth waiting for.
But our world wages war against waiting. America’s favorite food is fast-food. Online stores entice shoppers with speedy shipping. Pop culture not only tolerates sex before marriage, but encourages it. The point is not that we need to be patient just because we see it as a virtue. But that patience reveals what we find virtuous. A man who cherishes his bride will wait for her in marriage. A special meal for a dinner guest will take hours to complete. People wait for what they value.
Why We Celebrate Advent
For the next three weeks, churches across the world will observe Advent. "Advent" is a Latin word that means “wait.” Specifically, it means the waiting for the arrival of someone or something. What an appropriate term for the holidays! Christmas is all about waiting. Kids wait for their gifts. Mothers wait for their sons to return from college. Retail workers wait for the dirge of Christmas music to graciously end! But Advent celebrates something so much more. It celebrates those who waited for God's promises. It celebrates those who waited for Jesus.
Each week during Advent, our church will read specific promises that God gave His people, the Israelites, in the Old Testament. Each promise will involve the same two elements: the coming of Jesus, and waiting. As we look at those passages, we will not only remember, but rejoice. We will rejoice not only because God fulfilled His promises, but because people were faithful in waiting for it.
We make a big deal about those who waited for God’s promises because their patience was actually faith in action. They could’ve decided that God was being too slow in bringing about their King. The Israelites could’ve chosen to look somewhere else other than God for a Messiah—and many did. But what's important is that some didn’t. That’s what Advent celebrates: not just the promises, but the faith of those who waited for God’s promises.
Their patience wasn’t just a static belief, but an active reality. Those who faithfully waited for God to bring the Messiah did not just go about their business; their patience guided the way they saw God and how they obeyed Him. Perhaps the best example of this is Simeon of Jerusalem. He waited for God’s promises. This is what Luke 2 says about him.
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God..." Luke 2:25-28
Simeon was not just a man of patience. He was a man of faith! His patience merely exemplified that. What he waited for ahead impacted what he did then. This is the difference between worldly patience and godly patience. Godly patience leads to godly obedience because it is guided by faith. Simeon had faith, and was patient because of it. As a result, God rewarded him.
Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel...
Christmas and Advent are important because they not only look back but also look ahead. Jesus assured His disciples that He was coming again. There are still many promises about Jesus that have not yet happened. Just like the Israelites then, we Christians wait in exile. As citizens of Heaven but foreigners on Earth, we wait for the return of the King. That patience is so much more than a mere feeling we tuck behind our conscience, but a belief so strong, like Simeon, it has no choice but to command our daily lives.
Christmas and Advent is a time to look back and see how God rewarded those who waited for His promises. It is also a time for us to be reminded of the promises for which we are still waiting. The King has been born, but is coming back soon. Jesus came first as a baby but is returning as a man. He arrived in a silent night but will return in a rolling thunder. Therefore, rejoice. Immanuel has indeed come to Israel, and is coming again to bring His followers home.
Resting in Him,
(Antiphons chanted by Gregorian monks during Advent in the Medieval Age)
Veni, veni Emmanuel! Captivum solve Israel! Qui gemit in exilio, Privatus Dei Filio, Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.
Veni o Jesse virgula! Ex hostis tuos ungula, De specu tuos tartari Educ, et antro barathri. Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.
Veni, veni o oriens! Solare nos adveniens, Noctis depelle nebulas, Dirasque noctis tenebras. Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.
Veni clavis Davidica! Regna reclude coelica, Fac iter Tutum superum, Et claude vias Inferum. Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.
Veni, veni Adonai! Qui populo in Sinai Legem dedisti vertice, In maiestate gloriae. Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.