I often wonder how Mary felt in the days leading up to Jesus's birth. What did it feel like to nurture and carry the Messiah? What physical pain and spiritual peace did she experience? When she received news of her unexpected pregnancy, Luke tells us, "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Those nine months must have been life changing.
Throughout our lives, we go through our own periods of waiting. They aren't usually marked by something as extraordinary as giving birth to Jesus, or even marked by such a specific framework of time. But they represent our periods of growth, the times we patiently nurture a vision to completion.
The season of Advent gives us space to remember waiting for Jesus' birth, alongside Mary's hopeful expectancy. It leads us to look forward to Christ's return. It gives us a context for all the ways we wait in our own lives, and it names what we are ultimately waiting for in Jesus.
Scripture is full of people who waited. In fact, waiting seems to be one of the main themes in the Bible.
Waiting for God’s promises
Israel's history began with waiting on a promise. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, as numerous as the stars in the sky. But it wasn't until years later, when Abraham and his wife Sarah were past the age of childbearing, that this promise even began to be fulfilled. When Sarah received the news, Scripture says she laughed in disbelief. The messenger replied, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14a). She went on to give birth to Isaac, a name that means "son of laughter."
Waiting for redemption
Years later, Abraham's descendants grew into the nation of Israel. But rather than living in freedom, they found themselves under the yoke of slavery in Egypt. For 400 years, the people of Israel cried out for God to rescue them. God heard their cries and raised up a leader, Moses, to stand against Pharaoh and lead them finally to the Promised Land. But Israel's waiting didn't end there. Once in the Promised Land, they waited for a king to lead them, waited for the temple to be built (and rebuilt), waited to return from exile during war and displacement, and ultimately, waited in hope for the Messiah.
Waiting for the kingdom
Prophetic books in the Bible like Isaiah and Revelation describe God inaugurating a new heaven and a new earth. The gospels describe this as the kingdom of God that we already experience in part—but one day in fullness. We wait for Jesus to restore justice, wholeness, and peace, to wipe every tear from our eyes, and to make all things new. With this vision we pray at Advent, "Come Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).
Countless others in the Bible have waited for Jesus's healing, forgiveness, and abundant life. In all these stories we recognize our own stories of waiting. Like Abraham and Sarah we often wait with deferred hope, and like Israel we often wait only to have to wait some more. But we also wait with glimmers of the promise we will receive. We wait because there is something worth waiting for.
In this season of Advent, we draw strength from all those who have waited before us. We are given hope in the promises God fulfilled in their lives, and we look forward to the promises that are still being nurtured within us.
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