Perhaps waiting is part of our redemption. Perhaps it is a gift that makes what we hope for possible. Perhaps dreams, like embryos, require months of preparation inside a patient soul before what was conceived can be fully formed. Perhaps waiting is not simply that period before we get what we want; perhaps the waiting itself is the best part of the journey. Like Christmas, the anticipation is more meaningful than the day itself so we must learn to be patient, to stay in the moment and to find the joy that comes only from waiting. But how? In this series we’ll look at four characters (or couplets of characters) who modeled what it means to wait well. All of them carried around a restless hope that would not let them settle, with a durable trust that would not let them quit.
Week 1 “Waiting for the Promise” Luke 1:5-15a, 23-24, 26-38. Rev. Steve DeNeff
When God suddenly interrupts us with hope – in the form of a promise – he often follows this by promptly doing nothing. So what do we do when God is doing nothing? Elizabeth and Mary had a lot in common with each other, but even more in common with their ancestors. Like Sarah, and Hannah, and Manoah’s wife before them, these women were not supposed to have children (Elizabeth: not ever; Mary: not yet) and their barrenness was symbolic of Israel, who was waiting for her exile to end. But God created something out of nothing and, miraculously, both women became pregnant because “nothing is impossible with God,” (Luke 1:37). Both received a promise and both received a miracle, but not all at once. In between the promise (Lk 1:13, 31) and the miracle (Lk 1:57; 2:7) was a long season of hope that God would do what he promised to do. Like these two women, many of us heard a promise from God, one day, but it still hasn’t happened. We live in that long season of hope, between the promise and the miracle, and these women show us how to wait.
Week 2 “Waiting for Shame to End” Luke 1:11-22, 57-65. Dr. Judy Crossman
Many people live under a cloud of shame, either for something they did (Zechariah: Luke 1:20), or for something they didn’t do (Elizabeth: Luke 1:7, 25). It’s as though they’re in prison, bound by something from the past, and it follows them for the rest of their lives. But while all sins have consequences, all consequences have an end. “There is a time to tear and a time to mend; a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Too often, when our sins have consequences, our consequences have no end. We carry around the shame of our sins from the past and it feels like a prison. We wait for the end of the sentence, only it never comes. Zechariah shows us how to wait for the end of our sentence, and how to speak (“praising God”) when the sentence is over.
Week 3 “Waiting for an Explanation” Matthew 1:18-25. Rev. Emily Vermilya
Sometimes waiting is easier when we can see the reason for delay, when we can see what is happening ahead of us. But too often we cannot, and we are made to wait anyway and what causes us so much angst is that we are stuck in the moment with no explanation of what else is happening, or of how this will all work out. Joseph provides a model for how they can wait with integrity (1:19) and continue to do what the Lord commands (1:24).
Week 4 “Waiting for the Day of the Lord” Luke 2:25-38. Rev. Steve DeNeff
There are many, in exile, who have hoped for something and yet they are running out of time. Like Simeon and Anna, they are getting older and there is less time to see it all unfold. Or like some of the prophets, they have been optimistic and yet there is so little return. It is easy to feel betrayed by our hopes or by God’s promises. It is easy to be cynical and to withdraw from the world. Simeon and Anna are two who waited a lifetime for “the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25, 38), who were surely disappointed again and again, but who saw what no one else could see and they leaned into it. From this aging couple we learn how to wait in hope for a day that is beyond our day, for a generation that will come after our generation, and we pass the blessing forward (2:34) while we speak with confidence about the future (2:38).