Growing up, did you ever sit in front of the oven while something was baking inside? This time of year, my sisters and I would always be baking Christmas treats with our mum. One of my favourite things to make was sugar cookies. Perfect, buttery bites of sugary goodness all topped in delicious coloured icing.
Making sugar cookies involved a lot of waiting. First, we had to mix the dough. Then into the fridge it would go, and we would wait. Next, we would roll the dough, cut the cookies out and pop them in the oven; more waiting, often watching the cookies rise and turn golden through the glass of the oven door. Then, the cookies were moved to a cooling rack. More waiting. Until, at last, the cooled cookies, in all their different shapes and sizes, would be put in front of us and we could ice them.
In our modern day world of fast food, twenty-four hour news and movie streaming platforms, we rarely have to wait. We don’t like to wait. Waiting is bad. Instant gratification is good. That is what society tells us.
I’ve been reflecting on waiting this Advent season. Have you ever thought about how much waiting there is in God’s big story? From the very beginning of the story, in the Garden, humanity has waited for a Saviour. The Old Testament is full of God’s people waiting. They waited for the land that had been promised to them; they waited for freedom while enslaved. They waited through king after king after king. They waited through captivity. They waited through silence. Then one night in Bethlehem a baby was born.
And then there was more waiting. For thirty years, even Jesus waited.
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about this period of Jesus’ life. Luke tells us one story about how Jesus taught in the temple at 12 years old. Luke concludes this passage by telling us that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Ninety percent of Jesus life on earth was waiting; but waiting doesn’t mean that nothing was happening. He was growing in wisdom, stature and favour.
While we might not have to wait for our favourite television show or movie, we’re probably all waiting for something. Maybe you’re waiting for healing? Your dream job? Reconciliation with a family member? A spouse? A home? Justice in a situation? A promise to be fulfilled? Some good news?
Waiting is hard; waiting is painful. Waiting isn’t what we would chose, if we were given the choice. But in the waiting, God is with us – Emmanuel, in every sense of the word. God came as a baby to be with us. There is a wait between the manger and the ministry; God with us, on earth, as a human. Eating, drinking, sleeping, working, sweating. God with us. In the waiting.
Waiting is not neat and tidy. We can’t put end dates on it. But we can know that God is with us in the waiting.