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How Much Longer?

November 30, 2020

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).

If you’ve ever been on a car trip with children, you have heard them whining, “Are we there yet?  How much longer?”  Like children waiting to be released from the confines of a car, we have been waiting months to be released from the grip of the COVID-19 virus.  We are waiting for many things—to go to the gym, to get a haircut, to go back to work, to go back to school, to go to church, to travel, to invite friends and family into our homes, to celebrate a milestone birthday, anniversary, or other big event, to go to a restaurant, or to go to a movie.  This time of year we especially miss getting together with friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, and family for Christmas lunches, dinners, teas, and parties. 

We waited months for a COVID-19 vaccine, and we are finally seeing the light at the end of that tunnel.  We are still waiting for the economy to get back on track, for stores to re-open–the list of things that we are waiting for seems endless. Just when we think we are closer to returning to “normal,” a government official hands down another closure edict.  We wonder when it will end.  How much longer must we wait? 

And speaking of waiting—when is Jesus coming?  We wonder when he is coming—really coming into our lives—not just on Christmas Day when we celebrate his birth. We wonder when he is going to be with us.  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 bring an end to the coronavirus?  When will he stop the pain?  When will he end the divisiveness that tears us apart?  When will he answer my prayers for a job? When is he coming into my life?  

Waiting is hard.  The Israelites knew that.  They waited centuries for the Messiah. Fortunately, God sent prophets to give them hope—to see them through the endless waiting.  The Scripture lessons for next Sunday[1] continue with Isaiah’s plea to 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).   

Isaiah’s name means “God is salvation,” which could summarize the book of Isaiah. He was prophesizing in Jerusalem during the reign of several kings between 740 to 686 B.C.   While his writings are applicable to the current events of the day, they also hint at later messianic events.  Starting with Chapter 40, Isaiah comforts his listeners who had suffered under the Assyrians and Babylonians.  At the same time his writings foreshadow the Messiah, who would come with power and might and take them 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).  Isaiah and the other prophets encouraged the Jewish population during dark times and centuries of waiting. 

The psalmist confirmed 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).   

But in Jesus’ day, God had not sent a prophet since Malachi, 400 years before.  The people were expecting the appearance of another God-sent prophet or perhaps even the Messiah.  Mark’s fast-moving gospel states in the first sentence that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of God.”  The Nazarene carpenter who was born in Bethlehem as foretold of old, was the one of whom John the Baptist spoke.  

When John arrived on the scene, he baptized Judeans in the Jordan River and gave them the good news that their waiting for the Messiah was over.  He told them that the one who would follow him was the Messiah foretold by Isaiah: “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: 6-8).

Some complained in the first century and others are still complaining in the 21st century that Jesus is taking too long to return to earth to set everything right.  Peter explains that God’s time is not our time: “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 live in chronos, the Greek term for earthly time, divided into minutes, hours, days, months, and years.  God’s time is kairos—just the right time.  His timing is perfect. We are lucky that God waits patiently for us to repent and to come to him. 

In the meantime, remember that God is with you throughout your life on earth. You are not waiting by yourself in the hospital waiting room.  You are not alone when you are 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. 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.

 Jesus left us the best gift of all—his Spirit, to remain with us forever.  Merry Christmas!

Prayer: Faithful and merciful God, we praise and thank you for sending the prophets who promised the patriarchs of old that the Messiah was coming.  We thank and praise you for sending the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us from sin and death and for sending his Spirit to remain with us.  Just as John prepared the way for Jesus, prepare our hearts in the coming weeks to serve you and others with joyful hearts. Amen.

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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