Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
~ Psalm 27:14
A few months into our marriage, I asked my husband what his favorite Bible verse is. He responded with the above.
What?? I thought. Your favorite Bible verse is about waiting?? What have I gotten myself into?
Sure enough, we’ve done a lot of waiting in our life together so far.
But let me assure you that I don’t think waiting has been the fault of my husband for having such a favorite verse. The Scripture is actually full of waiting. It’s full of wilderness wanderings and years of barrenness and valleys of the shadow of death. The Advent season – the 4 weeks before Christmas, essentially – are all about waiting.
From the very beginning of the need for redemption – since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden – people have been waiting for Jesus to come. They have been waiting for the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. Some commentators even think that Eve named Cain, her first son mentioned in the Bible, in light of this hope-filled promise.*
But Cain was not that promised seed. The people of God would actually have to wait thousands of years for the promised seed to come. In the meantime, they worked and prayed, doing what was put before them as they waited on God to fulfill His promise.
Almost five years into marriage now, it turns out that we have had to learn in painfully deep ways to wait for the Lord. We have had long periods where my husband could not find full-time employment, despite his best efforts. And we are still childless, despite many rounds of treatments.
We’ve had to learn to be strong in the waiting, even though we were weak, despairing, and sometimes hopeless that things would ever change. We’ve had to learn to let our hearts take courage when we wanted to shrink back with fear at the valleys we were traversing.
But strength and courage would be impossible if not for the hope of waiting for the Lord. Advent reminds us that we put our hope in a Person who will always be faithful to fulfill His promises, even if it seems that He tarries a long time.
In some traditions, when the nativity scene is set up, the Christ Child – baby Jesus – is not added to the manger until midnight on Christmas Eve. It’s a breathtaking visual reminder that Advent is about waiting for the Lord.
Eventually, the promised seed of the woman came. The serpent bruised his heel – that most tender of spots – when he was crucified. But he crushed the head of the serpent when he rose from the dead. The dividing wall of hostility between humans and God was demolished. We can again have communion with Him as His Spirit lives in us through Christ.
Eventually, he will come again, bringing the fullness of redemption with him – that glorious time when there will be no more mourning or tears, but abundant joy instead in the presence of the joyful one who made us.
But Advent also invites us to lament as we wait for that glorious day. God does not chastise us for our grief as we experience the curse – fruitless work, barren womb, shattered dreams, death in all its forms. The Psalms are full of the lament of waiting for the Lord, of waiting for Him to act, to redeem, to bring justice, to work redemption.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The haunting melody gives expression to our souls’ groanings as we wait for the Lord, as we ask Him to come, as we grow hope through our waiting that He will fulfill His promise and come again to make all things new.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.
*Richard Belcher’s notes in his Genesis commentary in the Focus on the Bible commentary series. Page 78, commenting on Kaiser’s The Messiah in the Old Testament.