Advent is a time to prepare: to celebrate the first coming of Jesus, the king born in a manger, and also to anticipate the return of the king to restore all things.
Are you ready?
It can be desperately difficult to wait: at a supermarket checkout, for an internet page to load, for a train to come, or a queue of traffic creeping along the motorway.
Are you good at waiting?
It seems that 2020 has all been about waiting. Waiting to get our lives back on track, waiting to hear about the latest lockdown rules, waiting for the results of a Covid 19 test, or waiting for a vaccine.
One of the most interesting characters in the Advent story is Zechariah, an old priest in the temple in Jerusalem, married but childless. He is full of longings. Humanly, he would have loved to have had a son to carry on the family name. He longed for God to visit his people.
He looked for the coming of Messiah.
“The Old Testament is a story looking for a conclusion.” (Tom Wright)
Zechariah had been waiting for that conclusion all of his life. Everyone in Israel had been waiting 400 years for some fresh word from God. Zechariah had been waiting for the opportunity of a lifetime to take his turn offering incense in the temple. As he prayed in the temple, God met with him and demonstrated that he is able to do “immeasurably more than we can think or imagine.”
Zechariah is told that he will have a special son and, although he was in the very place where belief ought to have come naturally, he simply could not take it in. So, bursting with great news to tell, he is silenced. For nine long months he is left in silence, waiting for the birth of that promised child.
We live among people who wait, hoping for a better day, improved health, a job, a solution for a difficult situation, or for a difficult person to change…
For Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth the wait is over. The moment has come. Zechariah’s silence is now broken. God has spoken to Zechariah. He has had nine months to reflect on his experience. Now his tongue is set free.
Michael Milton says that the song of Zechariah is “the song of a mind made clear” (Luke 1: 69–73) and “the song of a soul revived” (Luke 1: 74–75).
Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.” (Luke 1:67–68)
Francis Shaeffer calls this story “Excited about God.”
Zechariah is excited about what God is doing. He is filled with awe and wonder that his son will be part of the process of preparing for the coming of God’s Son. He was blessed in this moment, but the fuller blessing was in the way that waiting made him wiser and deeper. In his nine months of silent, pregnant waiting he saw beyond the gift to the giver.
Might we learn to embrace the waiting as a gift that helps us to see beyond our schedules, treasures, longings and plans to the giver who chooses what to give us and chooses when to give it.
"Advent is the recovery of how to live in a world of impatience as a patient people.”
Don’t miss that opportunity in this time of waiting.