When I was a little child, waiting for Christmas seemed hard. It was such a l-o-n-g wait! Oh, there were stories to keep my mind occupied during the weeks leading up to the big day. There was music. There were things to do here, there, and everywhere, but it still felt like forever until Christmas.
I was a child, and waiting is hard for kids.
This has always been true. No one understands that better than God.
Today, we are celebrating the second week of Advent. Traditionally, the theme of the week is “Preparation”, but I’ve also seen it called the week of “Waiting”. In worship this morning, we began by reading from the prophet Isaiah. He served as a prophet of the Lord for approximately fifty years from 739 – 690 B.C. We ended our reading with the Gospel of Luke, when Gabriel appears to Mary. This was likely around 6 B.C.—a long wait from the prophecies of Isaiah.
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: The virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[e] will call him Immanuel.[f] (NIV)
Isaiah was speaking to King Ahaz of Judah, who was ruling from around 735 B.C. to around 715 B.C., depending upon your source, but for sixteen years in that span of time, Ahaz was king and Isaiah was one of God’s chosen prophets during that time. Ahaz was exasperating both to man and God, so the Lord gave a specific look into the future. He invited the king to ask for a sign, but Ahaz would not; supposedly to look unassuming, but I am thinking it was truly because if a known prophet such as Isaiah did share a word for the Lord, Ahaz could not disregard it.
Anyway this was the sign given, that a virgin would give birth to a son that would be called Immanuel.
In Hebrew, the words are: “the unmarried young virgin will conceive and bear Ben [(the) Son] and called Imman El [with us G-d].”
This prophecy was written down and remembered and taught from the days of King Ahaz of Judah to the time of Mary, who lived hundred of years later. (For a great discussion on the lineage of Christ as presented in Matthew and Luke, I recommend this link in stackexchange. )
During all that time, God’s children, his chosen people, were waiting.
The people of Israel had their ups and downs while they were waiting. Times of great obedience and times of disobedience and turning away. We cannot judge them, for we are the same in our lives. From the time of the beginning to ten nanoseconds ago, Mankind has exhibited impatience and disobedience.
We like having our own way, but that’s not the best way. Mary, Jesus’ mother, knew the best way.
And Mary said, “Behold the bonds-maid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
In submitting to God’s plan for her life, as told to her by the angel Gabriel, Mary set foot on a path that would be difficult, harrowing, and filled with tears. But she had been told by that same angel that she was highly favored in God’s sight, and she knew she was the one chosen by the Almighty to participate in this great plan, in the birth of a son foretold more than thirty generations before.
She obeyed, and began her own time of waiting for the advent of the one who would be called, “With us, GOD.”
May we, in this season of celebration and expectation, be as open to obedience. May we one day come before God and hear, “Well done, good and faithful bonds-man.”
Such praise will be worth any amount of waiting.