Someone once said, “Waiting is not a wasting of time, especially if the thing you are waiting for is worth it.”
We’ve just begun what is known in the Christian calendar as the season of Advent, a time of waiting in anticipation of all that will happen when we finally reach Christmas Day.
During my childhood, the first few weeks of December seemed to drag on forever and I found it almost impossible to wait patiently to see if I’d receive the presents I’d asked for.
I recall one year, when I must have been around ten years of age, about one week before Christmas, sneaking into my parents’ bedroom whilst they were both out and finding a couple of big, wrapped presents under their bed, with my name on them.
I very carefully opened one of them and discovered the record player I’d had on my present list for months – fantastic! I then re-wrapped the present and left it as I’d found it. On Christmas morning, I feigned surprise and delight as I opened my gift for the second time, expressing gratitude for what mum & dad had given me; “I never expected it,” I lied!
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival”, and the four weeks of waiting that take place each year before the great day arrives is supposed to speak to us of the many, many years of waiting that God’s people did, as they anticipated the birth of the Messiah whom the Almighty, in his word, had promised them.
When Isaiah, in the Old Testament book that bears his name, prophesies that a child like no other is going to be born, who will be known by various titles, including “The Prince of Peace”, he anticipates a birth that does not take place for the best part of another seven hundred years, until the baby Jesus is born to an ordinary young couple from an obscure, back-water town called Nazareth.
But the fact that more than two thousand years later, this one child’s birth is celebrated annually in all corners of the earth, seems to suggest that his unique arrival was well worth the wait.
“He came down to earth from heaven” we sing in one of the verses of the carol “Once in royal David’s city”; but the brevity of that sung statement doesn’t do justice to the extent of journey the Lord Jesus made in leaving Glory and arriving on this Globe that we call home.
The story is told of an African schoolboy who was listening carefully as his teacher explained to him and his classmates why Christians should be such giving people. “Jesus taught us that giving gifts is an expression of our love and friendship for Him and each other, and that it is more blessed to give than to receive,” she told her pupils.
A few days later, at the end of class, the boy brought his teacher a seashell of stunning beauty. “Where ever did you find such a beautiful shell?” she asked him. The boy told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found – a certain bay several miles away.
The teacher was left speechless. She knew that it would have taken the young African boy hours to walk to the bay and he would have faced many dangers from the jungle and the rocky cliffs of the sea coast.
“Why, why, it’s gorgeous, wonderful, thank you; but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get this gift for me,” the teacher, with tears in her eyes, told her young pupil. His face beamed as he said to her, “The long walk is part of the gift.”
As the apostle Paul considered the long journey that Jesus made from heaven to earth, the sacrifice that had been made for his salvation, and the love of God for him, graciously expressed in the Saviour’s birth, he responds with a shout of praise in verse 15 of 2 Corinthians chapter 9: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
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