Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Grace to Wait

    Instant gratification. Let’s be honest – for most of us that concept is synonymous with our view of an ideal world. No one likes waiting in line at the checkout. No one likes being put on hold by customer services for hours on end. We want everything right here, right now. 

    But the Advent period is a time for us to challenge that insistence on reaping the rewards immediately. It’s a time to practise self-control (particularly when the endless boxes of chocolate come out!), self-discipline (to avoid getting overly caught up in the sparkly festivities) and self-examination (if Jesus walked through the door right now, would you be ready to greet Him?). It is also an amazing time for repentance in order to purify our hearts to receive Him. 

    We are not just waiting to mark the birth of a baby 2000 years ago – we’re waiting for that baby to come again in such a time as this. As such, we are called to ‘stay awake, for (we) do not know the day or the hour’ (Matthew 25:13). For me, Advent presents three main challenges to consider.

    Patience is something the majority of us desperately need more of. Whether it’s searching for a job, getting frustrated by the essay that seems to be beating us, struggling with singleness or trying to discern God’s plan for us. When we don’t get answers immediately the inevitable temptation is to take matters into our own hands. It’s important to remember we are not just waiting FOR the Lord, we are waiting ON the Lord. That means being patient and letting Him reveal His plans and the reasons behind them in His own time.
    Stay calm. Be still. Hand it all over to the Lord.

    Hannah waited for a child. Miriam waited to see Moses safe. Anna waited for the Lord to arrive. And the common factor? They all had faith in the eventuality God had promised them! A large factor in waiting is accepting that the thing you are waiting for has not yet arrived, but trusting that it will. In waiting on the Lord, we have to learn to be completely open to whatever He might through our way.    
    Rather than worrying about every little decision, aim to replicate Mary’s acceptance by saying ‘Yes’ to the Lord in all things.

    The common words translated to mean ‘wait’ in the Old Testament typically follow the theme of waiting patiently, being still and longing for something, whereas in the New Testament the words for ‘wait’ signify expectation, moving towards something and eagerly awaiting. In this sense the birth of Christ brought with it a sense of motivation. ‘Waiting’ evolved from a passive faith into an active hope of redemption and deliverance.
    This change is also evident in the lives and actions we hear about. For example, Abraham had a solid faith in the Lord’s provisions for him, and so never gave up waiting for a son even with no evidence that it could happen. We are even told ‘it is those of FAITH who are sons of Abraham’ (Galatians 3:6-9)! On the other hand, the acts of Jesus and His disciples in the New Testament teach us to ‘rejoice in the hope of the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2).

    Are you placidly waiting for that one day to arrive when you can open presents and eat as much food as you like without feeling guilty, or are you actively seeking Jesus in everything and striving to prepare yourself to receive Him. At times it seems society has lost sight of the real meaning of Advent – shops seem to miss it out completely and dive straight into Christmas itself as soon as Bonfire night is over! But you don’t have to conform to the trivialisation! You can return to fundamental, beautiful premise that Advent offers us: the expectation of Christ’s presence.

Try setting yourself 3 challenges this Advent:

-       -   Identify an area of your life where you are struggling to be patient, and pray for the grace of acceptance to enable you to wait upon the Lord.
-      -    Consider the attitude with which you would like to welcome Jesus – the Messiah – and strive to make any changes that might require. Practise introspection to discover what you might need to repent of.
-       -     Be aware of stress and anxiety creeping in, hand them over to Jesus and free yourself up to live a lighter life. In His death He took your burdens, in His birth he gives you the hope of life.

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