After a long season of wondering and waiting, we finally received some hopeful text messages from our dear friends who’d recently moved to Europe. Their move had been a long time in the making, one that would allow our friend, with the support of his family, to pastor a church in Southern England. Our family had been praying for them and following their progress closely. And after hundreds of emails, many Zoom calls, and complicated visa applications in the midst of changing immigrations policies, the maddening process had finally come to a close—more than two years later.
At several points along the way, we commended our friends for their stunning example of patience and hopeful waiting. I suspect that some would have been tempted to give up, become cynical, or lose hope. Hoping, waiting, suffering, and deep longing sometimes shape our hearts in ways that expediency and efficiency never could.
The Advent season is a time to reflect upon God’s timetable and the centuries in which the people of God longed for the first coming of the Messiah. It is also a time to anticipate His return. Have you ever heard of God’s kingdom described with the phrase “already and not yet”? It refers to the fact that Christ has come, and yet we still wait in anticipation of His second coming. Traditionally, Advent hymns have been about this long wait for the first coming and the continuing wait for our full and complete redemption at His second. Longing and waiting—and sometimes questioning if we are foolish for continuing to hold out hope for a Savior—have been common throughout the ages. Longing for God’s rescue, healing, justice, and mercy, God’s people have wondered, “How long, LORD?” (Psalm 13:1).
Just imagine living in Zechariah and Elizabeth’s time, when many spiritual leaders were engaged in corruption, and their king, Herod the Great, was a cruel usurper and oppressive leader. But then a message comes to elderly Zechariah, the faithful priest, and his wife, Elizabeth. The message given by the angel Gabriel connects the final prophetic sentences from the last recorded prophet, Malachi, to the promise fulfilled in their soon-to-be-born son (Malachi 4:5–6). Just like his forbearers, Abraham and Sarah, it was hard for Zechariah to believe this could truly happen. Their son, John the Baptist, was the one who would live “to make ready for the Lord a prepared people” (Luke 1:17). And in the fullness of time, the Lord will deliver His ultimate rescue, full redemption, and complete justice.
Written by Rob Wheeler