1 Corinthians 1:3-9
I have never been good at waiting, but I have gotten less patient as I have gotten older. Perhaps this is because I now have a greater sense of how quickly time moves. Whatever the reason, I now find myself looking anxiously at my watch and tapping my fingers anytime I am forced to wait. Waiting for an appointment, waiting at a stoplight, even waiting for water to boil—all of these raise my blood pressure. Even in the midst of fun, I am impatient: a long line at an amusement park ride, and I am not sure that it is worth the wait; a rain delay at a baseball game, and I am ready to move on to the next thing.
Why is waiting so difficult? Sometimes it is the uncertainty; we want to know what is coming, and the longer we are in the dark, the higher our anxiety level becomes. But this is not always the answer, because we are often even more impatient when we know what is coming.
Today, the first Sunday of Advent, we begin our journey toward Christmas. All around us, the world is gearing up for a celebration of gluttony. It is hard to resist taking part in that frenzy, especially with our impatient natures. And yet, the season calls us to a different kind of waiting— not a crazed rush toward an end, but an eager looking forward.
I remember as a child waking up early on Christmas morning, knowing that I would have to wait until the rest of the family was awake before I could rush to the tree to see what had been left there. I would wiggle around and make as much noise as possible, hoping that I would “accidentally” awaken my parents. I still wake up early almost every Christmas, but something has changed. I now love that time just before everyone else is up, when I plug in the lights on the tree, turn on the nativity light, and sit. It may be the one time of year when I enjoy waiting! It is not only the anticipation of the fun that will soon come; it is also the great love that fills the room, the memories of Christmases past and the expectation of future joys together that make my Christmas morning waiting such a wonderful time.
If only I could hold on to that contentment the rest of the Christmas and Advent seasons—or the rest of the year, for that matter! Instead, I am constantly in motion, headed toward the next event, working on the next responsibility, trying to find the right answer to the next question. It must have been something like that for the early Christians as well, because Paul’s first words to the church at Corinth are about waiting. Paul reminds them that the day of Jesus is coming, and that they should stop worrying because they have everything they need to make it to that time. “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Corinthians were eagerly looking forward to the event we are now awaiting—the coming of Christ. As we celebrate God’s coming in the person of Jesus, we, with the Corinthians, also look for God’s second arrival—for “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The good news that Paul shared with them is just as true for us today: we are not only waiting for God, we are also waiting with God.
Have you noticed that when someone else is waiting with you, it makes the delay a little less tedious? Having a friend to talk with as you wait for your name to be called in the doctor’s office eases the tension, and sharing your hopes with a coworker about a plan at work can add joy to your excitement. Waiting, like many other things in life, is something that is often best endured in the company of others. That is what is so reassuring about these verses.
We are not waiting hopelessly in this world for the coming of Christ. Instead, we have been given all the supplies we need for the journey. All God’s gifts are right in front of us as we wait. More important, our faithful God is with us in the wait. God will “strengthen you to the end.” God offers us the company that makes waiting easier because God has called us “into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” That, after all, is the promise of Advent. Christ is coming—Emmanuel, “God with us.” We must grab hold of that promise.
In my church, when we are traveling to mission sites or taking other trips, we have a set answer to the question, “How much longer?” We always laughingly reply, “Five more minutes.” What began as a joke to prevent constant questioning has become much more. We all know that “five more minutes” is not an accurate answer to the question. Instead, it has become shorthand for “I know waiting is hard, but hang in there. We will be there soon. We are all in this together.” This Advent, as we think about the coming of Christ in our lives, let us remember that phrase, “five more minutes,” not as a prediction of the time of Christ’s return, but as a reminder that it is coming, that we are waiting together, and that God is waiting with us.
From The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2008, © 2007 Abingdon Press.