Updated: Apr 20, 2022
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19 NIV)
Something happened this past November that hadn’t occurred since 2011. That’s right, the Michigan Wolverines football team finally beat Ohio State, snapping an 8-game losing streak (with 2020 canceled for a COVID outbreak) and handing seven-year coach Jim Harbaugh his first victory over the Buckeyes.
To be honest, we didn’t expect it to take that long. When the Wolverines hired Harbaugh, he was an alumnus with success as player and coach at both the college and NFL levels. He did win a lot of games… just not against Ohio State. And as any fan of either team knows, “The Game” is the only one that matters.
It was a long wait, but victory was all the sweeter when it came. No one in Michigan enjoyed the wait, to be clear—and we sure hope it won’t take another nine years to win again. But the win was not diminished for the waiting.
I feel the same about my writing. When I retired from programming in 2016 to become an author, I never expected that I still wouldn’t have a book deal five years later. But when it finally happens, I will truly be no less excited, and possibly more than if it had happened right way.
Advent is a season of waiting. It’s a weird thing to celebrate. We commemorate the waiting of the past that has finished—Israel’s long, long wait for a Messiah; Mary’s nine-month wait for Jesus’ birth—while embracing our current anticipation of Jesus’ triumphant Second Coming.
We Christians are still caught between the now and the not yet. Our salvation is assured, but creation is still groaning for its renewal (Romans 8:22) as much as we are (2 Corinthians 5:4). The wait has been long. I’m pretty sure the first generation of Christians thought Jesus would return much sooner than the 2000 years it’s been so far. Indeed, they spoke of it as imminent. Yet as Peter writes,
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8b-9 NIV)
God’s plan is perfect. He wants to give the greatest number of people their best chance to find him, and he’s orchestrating it as only someone with omniscient knowledge of time and omnipotent power can. That’s his goal in everything—from the timing of book deals and the outcomes of college football rivalries to the rise and fall of nations:
“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27 NIV).
As we wait for Christmas Day, 2021, you might be filled with joyful anticipation or with sadness and dread. For some, this holiday will bring a reunion two years of Covid in the making; for others, it will be the first holiday without a loved one. Mary and Joseph probably felt all of that: joy and sadness, excitement and anxiety, longing and fulfillment. Every person and every feeling are welcome at the manger, to worship the King, and at the cross, to receive His mercy.