Waiting

Annunciation to Mary

If I were to ask  “What is the most exciting part of this time of year for you?”  I doubt if any of you would say “waiting,”  though we get plenty of opportunity to WAIT at this time of year – store lines are longer, and so we wait…drive thru lines at McDonalds, which is where we end up eating every night because we are so busy, are slower…so we wait.  In fact “Fast Food” this time of year just isn’t…it’s not fast, and consumed so quickly does not taste like real food…but it sure isn’t fast…so we wait.  Mail is slower, time on “hold” calling customer service is longer…so we wait.  On this “Cyber Monday” it seems like the internet is slower…so we wait.  I want you to think about the joy of waiting …that’s right…I said the joy of waiting.  The key to finding joy in waiting is to think more specifically about what it is we are waiting for in this season.  If we will let it, our worship will helps us wait, and wait joyfully.  It anticipates what is to come, and it comforts us in the anticipation.” 

There is something inherently exciting about this season of Advent.  Something is coming.  Even though secular culture has tried to push Christ from the public square, and remove all images of our Christian faith heritage from our streets, our stores, and our schools, still Christians have an inborn sense that Christmas is coming.  I could talk about the foolishness and evil in our world that has become so decadent that it seeks the removal of our Christ.  I choose, however, to focus on this sense that you and I have that is “in us.”  We wait in expectation, because we are sons and daughters, heirs of the King, because of this event!  It is not just decorating a tree – but it is knowing that there must be something special about a time of year that I go donate $50 to the boyscouts, take a tree that came from Canada, move all the furniture in my house so I can fit this thing in my den, and place shiny balls on the limbs that help me tell a story to my children and grandchildren.  It is not about the presents that are under the tree, but it is about the spirit of giving that reigns supreme in my heart fostered by the Giver of every good and perfect gift.  It is anticipation that builds inside me because the One whose entrance into the world I  celebrate, who came to redeem creation has come into my life and heart.  He even allows me to participate in that redemption.  He is alive in me!  God, Incarnate!   This time of year, all that is good, anything of any merit whatsoever in life is bubbling in anticipation of this celebration.  We know this to be the INCARNATION – the infleshment – God became one of us.

Songwriter Julie Gold’s lyrics to From a Distance were made popular by several singers, and became a monster hit when recorded by Bette Midler in 1990.  Another song recorde Alanis Morrisette with lyrics by Eric Bazilian aks; 

“What if God was one of us?  Just a slob like one of us…”

Bazilian’s lyric contemplates “what if” scenario with no real resolve, and Gold’s lyrics end up leaving God at a distance “watching us from a distance.”  Reality is that God became one of us…not a slob, yet as a Jew under the law of Moses he was subject to the law.  Even so, he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law.  He was a man, and shared our full humanity, pain, hunger, thirst, temptation, tiredness, and death.  As refreshing as it was to hear this kind of lyric with any reference to God making its way to top of the billboard charts, believers know that the picture painted does not tell the true story.  Christians know God has come to us.  This is Gospel. 

You may have heard the story of the little girl who was drawing a picture with crayons in Sunday School one Sunday, and the teacher asked, “What are you drawing, Rachel?”  The little girl replied, “I am drawing God,” to which the teacher replied, “Rachel don’t you know that we can’t draw God, because no one really knows what God looks like.”  In all of her innocent confidence the little girl replied, “They will when I get through.”

I think that we sometimes make Jesus into something unreal.  Our imaginations may cause us to present him as a puppet, who somehow floated through life disconnected from its reality.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  He was fully human, and knew humanness in all its reality.  This is the GOOD NEWS!  He was born of a woman.   It is this birthday we anticipate.  Our hunger for Christmas to come is a sampling of the pangs we have for anything of value to come… We trust that we will receive the gift at just the right time.

I remember as a child (yes, I can actually think back that far) being so excited about the time of opening presents, sitting around the tree peering at my presents and wondering what was in there.  I did not want to know.  I liked surprises!  Because we were church brats – I grew up a P.K. – we almost never had Christmas at our house on Christmas day.  My kids know this same routine as well now.  Sometimes we open gifts and have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, sometimes it is the week after December 25, but almost never on Christmas day.  That does not stop us from adopting the mindset of Christmas celebration on whatever day we get to be together to open gifts and share a special family meal.

I thought Christmas was “the bomb” as a kid.  Part of me did not want to grow up, because as I grew up I noticed that the anticipation was a little less intense.  Presents for me meant less and less, although I also noticed that I began to get more excited about giving.  I loved getting my wife presents.  That worked out really well, because she seemed to place a high value on receiving them. 

After the children were born we went through plenty of years where our finances were so low we actually could not afford to buy gifts for one another.  Sometimes one or the other would cheat that system and sneak something under the tree – those were the ones that were “To: Mrs. Santa, From: the dogs.”  Over time I learned what to get, and when to get it.  Did I mention she likes jewelry?

Receiving gifts was fun as a kid, but giving gifts to the love of my life, and then to my kids was much more satisfying.  And this year?  GRANDCHILDREN!!!!  I can hardly wait!!  But then again…I love waiting, dreaming, anticipating.  So I wait, and wait joyfully.

I wanted to get my 2 year old grandson a four-wheeler, but Ebbie said it is “not the right time.”

Part of being a good giver is knowing the right time for the right gift.

“When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[a] Father.” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:4-7)  We are “joint heirs with Christ.” 

“We are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  (Gal 3:26-28)

As we consider the greatest gift ever given, or received, let’s think about the total perfection of the gift, the Giver, and the giving itself.

The Gift, of course, was exactly what we needed.  It was perfect.  A baby, born of a woman, born in a manger, in the most meager of circumstances.  Could this be…God in flesh?  Is God a baby?  A baby is the picture of innocence.  A baby is the essence of vulnerability and humanity.    The gift was perfect.

The Giver was the One who we adore.  I enjoy and appreciate gifts from work colleagues and friends, but receiving a gift from those I love more than life…those I adore…that is the best.

The Giving was not only the perfect gift, but it came at the perfect time. 

This gift came into the world, but the whole Gospel makes this marvelous gift the “gift that truly keeps on giving.”  Christ died for us, was buried and raised from the dead, conquering sin and death and the grave, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.”  This gift continues to give in such a way that we sense the very anticipation of celebrating Christmas (his birth) yet again…and/or “still” thanks to this same wonderful gift.  It is because Christ is truly IN US!

C.S. Lewis says,

When Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental, or moral.  When they speak of being ‘in Christ’ or of Christ being ‘in them,’ this is not simply a way of sying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him.  They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts – that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body.” (Mere Christianity)

This reality – Christ in us – is the reason our singing should be different!  This is the reason our worship itself should be different.  We should anticipate with a much higher level of joy and anticipation than the rest of the world that celebrates “happy holidays.”  When we sing “Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come” there should be an incredible sense of proclamation of our Lord!  Is it any wonder that all of the greatest musicians addressed this season that sums up the spirit of goodness in humanity as it divulges the truth that MESSIAH has come.

“Jesus is God among us”

“The spiritual life, like the incarnation, is participation in this world, this life, this place, in our day-to-day relationships in family, work, church, and leisure.” (Robert E. Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals)

“Because of the incarnation, our humanity is lifted up into God.  God’s image within us is restored, and human nature is healed.  In this sense Jesus Christ is ‘the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Joyfully Waiting,

Paul

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4 Comments on “Waiting”

  1. Jo Ann Sims Says:

    Mr. Clark,

    I want you to know that you are as gifted a writer as you are a musician. Your newsletters inspire me each time they come. May God bless you during this season of great expectation.

    Joyfully waiting with you,

    Jo Ann

  2. Nancy Says:

    I can think of nothing better than reading this while listening to Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas CD. Thank you for this blessing today, my friend. Emmanuel — God is with us!!! Come and worship, come and worship – worship Christ the Newborn Kiing!!

    • pclarkjr Says:

      The Holy Spirit makes His Presence known in so many different ways. Thank you for being an encouragement. God is with us, indeed!


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