Christmas has come and you’re still waiting.
You’re still waiting for the grief of losing a loved one to pass.
You’re still waiting for that hoped for child.
You’re still waiting to land a job.
You’re still waiting for that special someone
You’re still waiting for that spouse or child to come to their senses.
You’re still waiting for your finances to get in order.
You’re still waiting for those plans to finally come together.
You’re still waiting for that sickness to heal.
You’re still waiting for peace to come to your home again.
What are you still waiting for after Christmas?
Christmas is all about timing. More specifically, it is about God’s timing.
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 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. – Galatians 4:4-7
There is so much in this passage worth reflecting on, but sitting in my church’s Christmas Day service, I was particularly struck by the timing of Christ’s birth. Paul says that Jesus was born “when the fullness of time had come.” There is nothing that happens apart from his perfect timing.
The same can be said about Jesus’ second coming. It will come to pass in God’s perfect timing. That day and hour is known only by God the Father (Matt. 24:36). In response, we are called to be ready and eagerly await his return (Matt. 24:44).
In fact, our waiting is marked by sufferings and longings in this life. This should not surprise us as it was the experience of Jesus after his birth. However, our waiting is also now marked by hope.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:18-21
Even though Christ came at the perfect time, he did not accomplish everything at one time. In other words, he came but we are still waiting. Our waiting will finally and fully come to an end when Jesus comes again.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:27-28
The reality of Jesus’ first coming and the hope of his second coming have something to teach us about waiting, disappointment, and discouragement.
We are not alone
Some of the difficulties we face in this life feel as if they must be carried in isolation. The shame of joblessness, the hidden sorrow of losing a loved one, and the disappointment of infertility often seem so weighty because we bear them in isolation.
The birth of Jesus reminds us that God has come to dwell with us. Jesus is Immanuel, which means God with us. It is God’s forever statement that he has not abandoned us. Nor will he leave us in our sins.
As Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure he reminds them that he will not leave them alone. He will sends the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 25-31) who will indwell them, guide them into the truth, and empower them for obedience even in the face of suffering. Paul will tell us that it is the Spirit that tells we are not alone. We are not alone because we are children of God.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:16-17
Paul also tells us that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit points to the promise of Jesus’ return.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14
You are not alone because Christ has come and the Spirit now indwells you.
We do not have to be defeated
Perhaps one of the most difficult things about waiting is the seemingly inevitable feeling of defeat. When another year passes with financial goals unmet again or that desired reconciliation still lacking, it is easy to feel discouraged. When another year passes and you’re still single, defeat begins to creep in. When will it ever happen? In the midst of waiting it is easy to feel despair and fail to see any hope.
This discouragement and despair slowly begins to impact our pursuit of Christ. We fail to remember God’s grace or see his loving discipline in our lives. We fail to remember Christ came to deliver us from sin (Matt. 1:21-23). The birth of Jesus as Savior is the good news of great joy for all people the angels announced to the shepherd (Luke 2:11-14). Our sin and shame have been nailed to the cross and we bear them no more (Rom. 5:5-8; Col. 2:13-15). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) None of the trials we face change these truths. In the midst of the most difficult, and potentially defeating, circumstances, listen to Paul’s hope:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. – 1 Corinthians 4:7-11
Elsewhere, Paul will point to the hope of the resurrection as the reason to endure trials and suffering. It seems in between Jesus’ first and second coming, we will face a myriad of waiting, suffering, discouragement, and trials. However, we never face them from a position of defeat.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58
The completed work of Christ’s first coming and the hope of his second coming provide the proper perspective to endure our present circumstances. We must remember that Christ came and defeated death and sin; therefore, we do not have to be defeated. We must remember that Christ is coming again and will bring with him full deliverance from the presence and power of sin; therefore, we do not have to be defeated.
Our hope is not in our trials or sufferings passing in this life. Our hope is in a Savior King who has come and is soon coming again! It is with this hope that we face our joblessness, disappointment, singleness, broken relationships, infertility, financial difficulties, and daily struggles.