O Come, O Come Immanuel

O Come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel.

That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears…

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight…

Make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Each year when I hear this song my spirit is drawn into the minor key of longing for the fulfillment of promise, waiting in darkness for the long expected Messiah. The good news of Christmas is that God has brought the light of His Son, Jesus, to people trapped in darkness.

Yet even as we sing, “Joy to the World the Lord has come,” there is still an intense longing for what is yet to come. Feeling joy and excited anticipation is not the story for everyone this season, and to suggest that it should be only magnifies the isolation and depression some people are experiencing during this season.

Even as believers, sometimes the light is merely a dim flicker nearly overcome by the brokenness around us or within us, living each day in incredible physical pain or the anguish of separation from someone dear to us.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish the light of Christ. John 1:5 Sometimes instead of a bright light appearing, we are given strength from God to endure the darkness a little bit longer, to wait with the tiniest glimmer of hope knowing the light will one day come.

While we rejoice that the birth and death of Jesus is God’s provision for our salvation, our spirits still cry out, “O Come, O come Immanuel” as we await the glorious return of Immanuel.

Please Wait

I began reading the gospel of Mark, and I was struck by the number of times the author wrote IMMEDIATELY. In fact, the word euthys occurs 41 times in the book. Things were always happening at a very quick pace. Immediately, the Spirit impelled Jesus to go out into the wilderness.  Immediately, Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Him. Immediately, the leprosy left a man and he was cleansed. Immediately another man picked up his pallet and went out. Throughout the gospel, someone immediately receives sight or is healed immediately.

Not so with my life. Nothing seems immediate. There is always waiting and more waiting and process. Healing and growth happen over time. Understanding and insight are not gained all at once. Even after I have prayed, the path is not immediately clear.

A few weeks later, I was reading Genesis and Exodus and there was not the same sense of immediacy. Abraham waited until age 100 before the child of God’s promise, Isaac, was born. Joseph was estranged from his family over 20 years. Moses shepherded 40 years in the wilderness before the Lord brought him into the role of deliverer. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  In these accounts, I recognize how God is more concerned about refining those he has chosen through crafting character over time.

In the fullness of time, God sent his own son, Jesus. For centuries the people longed for the coming Messiah, yet this event was pre-ordained before the creation of the world.

Why does immediate seem preferable? Why is waiting so difficult? Maybe the problem is that I have a temporal mindset and God is eternal not subservient to time as I understand it. Or perhaps it is because our society has idolized time-management and waiting seems to be doing nothing. Or perhaps longer waiting takes more faith and trust. For all the longing and waiting, we do have one guarantee of immediate.  In the twinkling of an eye…in an instant our earthly bodies will become immortal. When Jesus appears, we will become like him for we shall see Him as He is.  And for that, I eagerly wait.

Wait Training

Although we are in the midst of the Advent season, a time of waiting and anticipation, it seems that in today’s society, waiting has become a lost art. We don’t know how to wait in expectancy because we have Instagram and same day delivery. As much as I hate to admit it, I, too, have become terrible at waiting.

My friend Linda is a fitness instructor. As part of her classes, the participants use weights. Weight training builds muscle strength and enables us to stand taller and endure more strain.

I think our Heavenly Father also has us in a training program – wait training. His training builds inner strength, enables us to stand firmer in our faith and endure more stress.

Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired,They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

We often to quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope,” but this promise would take a long time to fufill. Verse 10 reads, “When 70 years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fufill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” The people of long ago were able to wait patiently because they knew God had a plan.

How can I learn to trust God is He gives me everything I want as soon as I ask for it?

Perhaps one secret learned in wait training is knowing and believing the truth of His word. God has a plan and His plans cannot be thwarted. God never fails to keep any of His promises. Before the world was spoken into existence, the Trinity’s devised a master strategy for Jesus to live among mankind, to be brutally crucified, to pay for our sin, and  to purchase our redemption. Knowing the Lord’s design ultimately results in our good, we can wait for Him to answer prayers and reveal details to us. We understand with certainty His second advent approaches. When Jesus returns to reign, we will reign with Him and receive an eternal inheritance that can never perish or fade away. The Lord will fufill His good word to us and bring us to be with him forever.