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Hurry Up and Wait

December 4, 2017

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping is promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3: 8-10).

A few years ago, my husband was scheduled to check into the hospital at 6:30 a.m. to be prepared for surgery.  We were up at 4:30 a.m. and out the door 30 minutes later to miss the Los Angeles morning rush hour traffic. We arrived at the hospital at O-dark thirty, well before the check in time. We waited. And waited. And waited, checking in periodically with the staff to make sure that he wasn’t dropped off the list. We were told that an emergency had come up, and his surgery had been delayed. He was finally called six hours after our arrival, at about the time we were supposed to be leaving the hospital after his surgery.  He finally went into surgery at about 3:00 p.m. I was notified about 8 p.m. that he was out of surgery and would be staying in the hospital overnight.   He was in recovery for a few hours, and I was finally able to see him in his room at about 11:30 p.m.— more than 17 hours after our arrival.

The phrase “hurry up and wait,” usually associated with the military, took on new meaning that day for us. Waiting for Jesus is kind of like that. We wait patiently, for hours, weeks, months, years for him to come and attend to our needs. Where is he? When will he heal us or our loved ones? When will he deliver us from a tyrant? Will he answer my prayers for a job? When is he coming?

This week’s Scripture texts[1] explain the importance of waiting on the Lord. Last week we discussed how the Israelites had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah. Isaiah tells us that we must be patient, for we are on earth for a short time, like the grass, but the Word endures forever: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40: 8).  But Isaiah assures us that he will come with power and might and will take us into his arms, as a shepherd cradles his beloved sheep: “The Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm, . . . he tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40: 10-11).

The psalmist confirms that God will revive and restore us through his love: “Restore us again, God our Savior . . . Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.” (Excerpts, Psalm 85: 4-7). He promises that “The lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps” (Psalm 85: 12-13).   John the Baptist was the one who prepared the way for Jesus, the Messiah: “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” (Mark 1: 4).

We have tendency to try to hurry things along.   We hurry up to decorate the house for Christmas after Thanksgiving, and wait a few weeks for the Christ child. We are impatient. We don’t like to wait in line in a store or wait for a traffic light to change. We want things to happen now. Like children, we see the gifts stacking up under the tree, and look forward to the Christmas teas, events, parties, and dinners with great anticipation.

Yet, it is good to be reminded, even for a few short weeks, that we are lucky to be blessed with extra time to wait. Peter tells us “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping is promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3: 8-9). We are lucky that the Lord gives us more time. He is patient.

The Nazarene carpenter who was born in Bethlehem as foretold of old, was the one of whom John spoke: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1: 7-8. And so it happened. We were not left alone. Jesus left us the best gift of all—his Spirit, to remain with us forever.

Sometimes I hear people say that they can’t wait for Jesus’ second coming. But there is no need to wait; he is here. He left his Spirit with us. You are not alone. You are not waiting by yourself in the hospital waiting room. You are not alone when you are waiting for the jury to come back on your case, waiting to hear about the job you applied for, waiting for the test results you are anxious about, waiting for the difficult person in your life to treat you with respect, waiting to see whether you will have enough money this month to cover your bills, or waiting for anything else causing you anxiety. He is there. You are not alone whatever your circumstance. He is there, waiting patiently for you to come to him. God will never bump you down on his list. He isn’t delaying his second coming. He is just being patient with you—and in the meantime, he sent you the gift of his Spirit to guide, comfort, help, and love you.  Turn to him and let him do his job—guiding, comforting, helping, and loving–and enjoy being in his presence during this holy season.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

 

 

[1] The Scripture texts for the Second Sunday in Advent are Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mark 1: 1-8.

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