In today’s Gospel, we see this wild looking character John the Baptist announcing the arrival of the long-time promised Messiah as recorded right through scripture.
The Old Testament was a time of prophets and promise. It was a time of waiting, or anticipation-and then it happened. God sent “his one and only Son” and the New Testament is the time of celebrating the promise fulfilled.
The Advent season focuses on the coming of that Messiah as we are invited to enter into the Old Testament experience of yearning and hoping and waiting.
Just like our children wait in expectation before they are allowed to finally open the presents sitting under the Christmas tree, so are we invited during these weeks of Advent to enter that spirit of painful expectation spiritually and if we can sense the pain and frustration of the Old Testament people, we can better rejoice at the fulfilment when the angels finally announce that “today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.”
To feel the pain of the wait and finally the Joy just as in our lives sometimes all we have is the promise as said in well-known form that “Faith is only faith when you have nothing else to hold onto to.”
Yet the Old Testament prophets did not know what to expect. They knew it would be a righteous Branch sprung from the stump of David’s house as recorded in Jeremiah where “The days are coming declares the Lord, when I will fulfil the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel.
But the Prophets did not know that the Messiah would be God himself.
They had no concept of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and so they couldn’t possibly anticipate that the Second person of the Trinity would be born as one of them with the Father sending his “One and only Son.”
We know from their writings that He would exercise kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, but how could they possibly know of the righteousness that Jesus would bring of forgiveness of sins won on a cross for they were anticipating that the Saviour would be for justice and righteousness for their nation rather than for all people and for all eternity.
Them and us, sometimes all we have in life is the promise, and we just wait. We wait and God surprises.
Problem is it’s hard to wait and we can feel it from the palmist and from ourselves as they and us cry: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord hear my voice. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his Word I put my hope (Ps. 130:1,5).
Sometimes all we have in life is the promise and it can hurt.
Times in our lives when all we had was the promise.
Times when you were in the depths and cried to the Lord, and all you could do was wait.
Painful times that you may remember as you recall the loneliness, the frustration, the anger, the doubt and maybe then the guilt of having such feelings. The how can God love me like this with my accusations and mistrust.
Maybe you are feeling that way today as we approach Christmas because while it is a time of celebrating Jesus arrival, it is also a season that can bring to the surface all the frustrations and losses and fears of life.
For many people, these weeks before Christmas are the most painful days of the year and can’t wait for it to be over.
Many people wear a mask of “good cheer”, but inside feel only pain and hurt and frustration. Outside it’s yes: Merry Christmas and Oh yes, the singing and the bells are wonderful. But inside it’s “I don’t have the perfect life like everybody else has.
I can act it, but I’ll never have it and as I don’t want to spoil it for you, I won’t tell you how I’m really feeling and this can go on for year after year. Will the pain ever end? Will Christmas ever pass?
Christmas is one of, if not the time of greatest depression, loneliness, and suicide in our society.
Sometimes all we have in life is promise and hope, and we wait. But the promise and hope that comes from God himself. And he is a God who fulfils his promises and that is what we celebrate at Christmas and daily in our lives that from Galatians, “When the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a women.”
All this was happening in the fullness of God’s time just as there is the fullness of time in your life.
Think Back. Remember those times of pain and frustration and doubt?
Remember how your good Lord saw you through them. Most likely he didn’t lead you out as you anticipated, but he did lead you out-“in the fullness of time,” when it was right and when you were ready.
Our heavenly Father did it in Jesus and He did it to you in your life and he’s still doing it now. That’s the story of our life in God. It’s a life of Trust. It’s a turning over of our fears and worries and burdens. It’s a freedom of knowing he’s in charge, a confidence that he will act. Our whole Christian life is waiting on Him. Trusting him in His love, His will and His goodness.
In Christ you are saved and forgiven today because you know Him and He knows you. You are blessed.
Yet there are those around us that behind the mask if we looked, we would see the hurting.
The one’s we go to and hold their hand in God’s name and help to hang on and wait. To tell them the Christmas truth: That God kept his promise from the Old Testament and sent His Son.
Because to them and to you, God keeps his promises to all who wait on him and in the fullness of time, in the most unexpected ways, he stills sends his Son to us-to restore, to build and to lavish us with his love. Thanks be to God. Amen.