“Come, Thou lo-o-ong expec-ted Je-e-sus . . .”
The familiar words echo in hearts painfully acquainted with waiting. We wait for the end of the workday, for warmer weather, for test results. We wait for love, marriage, and children—or for relief from a difficult marriage or parenting challenges. We wait for healing that may never come and answers we may never know.
As the wait lengthens, hope thins. We fear that our dreams and desires will become casualties of the wait, never finding fulfillment, leaving us with ache and longing. The hope promised in Scripture can seem not only distant but also irrelevant for our daily lives. We wonder, What good is our faith if we can’t find hope for today?
The Israelites knew about waiting. For centuries they had listened to the stories of their ancestors’ miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt; of God’s presence in the cloud by day and in the fire by night; of the Lord Almighty speaking through his prophets, delivering his rebellious people again and again.
But that was so long ago, and for four hundred years, all the Israelites heard was God’s silence. How many generations lived their entire lives without a word from the Lord, with only the stories of the past and the promise of a future Messiah to pass on to their children?
We know what happened next. Shouts of angels shattered the silence of centuries, heralding the Word made flesh. No longer satisfied to speak through the prophets, God made himself known through his incarnate presence. Earth remembered Eden, when God walked upon its surface, stirring hope at the promise of a new creation.
But that was so long ago, and thousands of generations have lived and died with only the stories of the past and the promise of the Messiah’s future return to earth. Remembering Christ’s first advent helps us await his second, but sometimes even this hope provides little comfort in the long seasons (or lifetimes) of waiting.
God knows. He waited millennia until the time was right to come into the world. He waited nine months so that he, fully God, could be born fully human. He waited thirty years to start his ministry, three years to fulfill his mission, and three days in the grave to seal our redemption. He waited another forty days to return to his Father and heavenly throne. And he is waiting still.
He waits for us every moment, whether we’re rebelling in sin or simply overwhelmed by the chaos of our lives; whether we’re pursuing other gods or doubtful that he can fulfill our deepest desires. He waits for us to realize we can never be good enough but that our good God loves us enough. He waits for us to follow him and become the people he created us to be—free from sin and fear, full of joy and hope. And he continually waits for others to do the same.
Perhaps the hope of Advent is not that we wait for God, but that he waits for us.
“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.” (Isaiah 30:18, NLT)