Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
—James 5:7-8 (NRSV)
I'm not claiming to be a wise old man, but even in my lifetime I have felt a shift in our culture that makes me at least a little sad. We have become less and less patient with the idea of waiting for something to happen. Have you noticed this trend as well?
The day after Halloween this year I went to HyVee for a short grocery shopping trip. I usually don't notice the music being played over the sound system, which mean it is probably serving its purpose — to keep shoppers calm when their toddler is demanding Oreos, when they have 30 minutes to prepare a meal for six people, or when it's been a stressful day at work and the last thing they want to do is wait in a check-out line to buy three things. But the music that day was being played loudly and there was no way to tune it out. And yes, it was Christmas music.
I thought to myself, "Christmas music? On November 1st? Seriously?" You can call me crazy if you'd like, but I think that's too early for Christmas music to be played when I haven't even begun to think about Thanksgiving plans yet. I think it's indicative of our culture's unwillingness to wait, and honestly, perhaps a lack of respect for the patience that waiting requires.
Waiting can be downright hard at times, though. Waiting for a doctor to call with the test results. Waiting for a visit or call from friends or family when you feel alone. Waiting for better weather to get into the fields. Waiting for a new chapter in life to begin. Nevertheless, waiting requires patience, even when it seems impossible.
Advent is a season of waiting with patience. We wait for the holy birth of our Savior, and we wait for His glorious return to judge the living and the dead. We wait as the days shorten and become darker, while yet brightening our sanctuary with the Advent wreath, proclaiming our hopeful anticipation of the Good News to come. As our culture jumps right into Christmas again this year (or more accurately, a secular version of Christmas) let us not forget that we are people called and claimed to wait patiently when the world around us refuses to do so. As written in the passage at the beginning of this article, "Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord… Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near."
May your hearts be strengthened in the midst of the things in life for which you are waiting this Advent season. May you find patience in faith when the world tells you to rush. And let us once again journey together to Bethlehem to witness the Good News that God has promised to give us anew this year. Let us practice the patience we need to welcome the Lord according to His time.
God bless you this Advent season, and may you have a blessed Christmas,