One of my favorite Tom Petty songs is “The Waiting.” You know, the one where the chorus goes: “The waiting is the hardest part, every day you see one more card. You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.” I can’t help but think about this song whenever Advent comes around. In the church calendar, Advent is specifically a time of waiting. Advent is a point in the year where we as the church place ourselves in the shoes of ancient Israel, waiting on the Messiah to come. All around us the world has jumped ahead to Christmas time, but here we are just waiting. And I really can’t stand waiting.
I think I can say without controversy that, by and large, Americans are an impatient people. We love to have things “now.” The comedian Brian Regan once noticed that Pop Tart boxes come with two sets of instructions: one on how to cook the pastry in a toaster, but another for how to microwave the Pop Tart for those who can’t afford to wait on the toaster to finish. Imagine that: we’re so impatient that the toaster oven is too long of a wait now!
But maybe this waiting isn’t so out of the norm for us. In reality, we all find ourselves “waiting” on something. We constantly feel like something is coming down the road that will bring a little relief or a little comfort. We’re waiting on the next job where we’ll finally “arrive” in our career. We’re waiting on the next stage of life when we’ll finally get to spend more time with our spouse and things will be smoother in our marriages. We’re waiting on the next vacation, the next fiscal year, the next paycheck.
And perhaps more importantly, we often feel like we’re waiting on God. We’re waiting on Him to fix something in the world, or we’re waiting on Him to act on our behalf. Perhaps there’s something going on in the lives of our students that we want God to intervene in and help out. In the end, we know there is brokenness in our world, we want God to step in and set things right, and yet it seems like we’re stuck waiting on Him to do it. Perhaps Tom was on to something much deeper than he knew when he said waiting was “the hardest part.”
But Advent is also a time when we remember that God is a God who makes promises, and He is a God who fulfills all His promises. In Galatians 4:4-7, the Apostle Paul says,
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
In other words, when the time was right, God did act. He stopped waiting and he sent his Son into the world to redeem the world. This is the message of Advent, that in the midst of our broken world, in the midst of our sin, in the midst of our pain: God has acted by sending Christ to offer redemption. God has not forgotten you, and He will never abandon you. And even though, as Tom once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part,” we know that in the midst of our waiting we can cling to the promises of God in Christ. Amen.