Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent: Season of Watching, Waiting and Transformation

“Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee!”

Advent is a season for waiting. Since the early church, Christians have set aside the four weeks leading up to Christmas as a time of watching, waiting, and preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth.

Much spiritual growth takes place when we set aside a time intentionally to wait on God. We listen with fresh awareness of what he might want to address in our hearts. We watch for what he might be initiating in our lives. We attend to the still, small voice through which he often speaks in our souls.

Sometimes that spiritual growth is remarkable and immediate. Other times it is less noticeable, yet nonetheless real. He addresses a bad attitude that we have been harboring. He gives us a fresh glimpse of his Father’s love for us as a son or daughter. God plants a seed of hope in our hearts—a seed that may take months of years to grow and bear fruit.

Waiting Comes Hard to Us
Contemporary culture is one of the quick fix and immediate resolution. We satisfy our hunger at the drive through rather than take the time to enjoy a healthier, better meal. Even though the quality of food is lacking, we content ourselves far too easily with its convenience. We have lost the art—indeed the fruit of the Spirit—of waiting in patience.

In the same way, we settle for fluff in our spiritual lives. We allow ourselves to be satisfied with superficial change rather than pursuing a more profound encounter with the Living God. Charles Wesley’s advent hymn is an appropriate prayer during this season: “from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee!” We all harbor fears—although we often deny it. Most of us fear what others think about us. Some fear loneliness; others fear intimacy. We fear the future, and we fear failure. In short, we live fearful lives, even though as Christians we know we do not need to fear. Advent is a season to actively wait on God and ask him to silence the voice of fear within.

Advent is a time to invite God to refine our character and transform our hearts. To experience lasting, substantive change in our lives, we need to watch and pray. This is a season for active, whole-hearted waiting on God, looking to him to change what we cannot on our own power.

Waiting necessitates tension. If I am waiting for someone or something, I have positive expectation, on the one hand, and unmet expectation, on the other. This creates an inner tension within me. Until the wait is over, I have two opposing dynamics working inside of me.

Waiting is an integral part of much spiritual growth. We experience tension—and feel emptiness—that are a part of waiting. If we settle for an immediate resolution, opting for a quick, easy answer to our inner hunger, we forfeit the deeper fulfillment that comes only when a long-awaited desire is finally fulfilled.

Creative tension leads to genuine growth. God works in our hearts during this such times of discomfort—uncovering fear, exposing wrong priorities, and revealing disordered affections. He also works in positive ways—affirming his call in our lives, kindling genuine passion for his purposes and developing much-needed endurance.

The Psalms are replete with accounts of those who had to wait years—even decades—as the Lord worked in their lives. David describes his waiting on God: “For you I wait all the day.” Such waiting comes with confidence, however: “Indeed, none of those who wait for you will be ashamed.” (Psalm 25:3, 5 NASB). David exhorts us to do likewise:

“Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14 NASB)

Genuine waiting demands focus and emotional energy. When we are waiting for something we want, or waiting for our plans to work out, we become exhausted. However, when we are waiting on God we are renewed!

“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
The will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tiered,
They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB)

This Advent
Advent is the season for waiting afresh on the Lord. Let us not lose this opportunity amid all the hustle and bustle. Instead, let us take the time and energy to wait on God. It will transform us. It will give us new focus and fresh strength that comes only from the Lord!

© 2010 Glenn E. Myers

1 comment:

  1. Glenn - I've really enjoyed these thoughts on Advent - you've brought fresh insight into these days. Thanks for sharing!