When I was in the seventh grade I read The Red Pony by John Steinbeck. The main character in that story, Jody Tiflin, was 12 years old when he was given a shotgun for his birthday. The catch was that he would not be given shells until his 13th birthday. He would have to demonstrate to his father that was responsible enough to take care of that firearm for one year before he would ever be allowed to use it. I cannot imagine my dad putting me through something like that but Steinbeck wrote in a different time and maybe Jody didn’t have ADHD. The objective for Jody was to demonstrate that he had learned some lessons about safety and responsibility during the ensuing year. There were lessons in the waiting. Let’s look at Genesis 12 and 15.
The promise was made to Abraham. Everything God had in mind was not revealed to him but he was promised that through his offspring “all the nations of the world would be blessed.” Spoiler Alert: without saying it in so many words we’re talking about Jesus in this verse. Abraham understood the part about descendants and land and believed that God could and would defeat all of his enemies. But it was through the lines of his prodigy that Jesus, the Son of God, was born into the world and in this way all of humanity has been blessed. Promises were made to Abraham that he could understand and an even greater promise was made that we are able to understand, looking back through the Old Testament with New Testament perspective.
Abraham would have to wait. In Genesis 12, God revealed to Abraham that his descendants would be given the land. In chapter 15, God explained this would not happen for 400 years. Read another chapter (Gen. 16) and you can see Abraham and Sarah try to speed things along. Ishmael was born because Abraham needed to learn some lessons about waiting. Jump ahead 400 years. When Moses saw a Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian he rose up and killed him. At 40 years of age he was ready to take action on behalf of the oppressed Hebrew people but God was not ready for that yet. Another 40 years later, at age 80, Moses would be sent before Pharaoh to demand that he let God’s people go. When the Hebrews reached the border to the Promised Land, their hearts sank at the report of the spies who said the cities were fortified and the inhabitants were giants. They were not ready to receive the promise, and spent 40 years in the wilderness while God raised up another generation. Even Moses would eventually die in the wilderness as the children of Israel learned about believing and trusting God.
There are lessons to be learned in the waiting. Jody Tiflin had some lessons to learn about responsible gun ownership before his father would trust him. The descendants of Abraham had some lessons to learn during the 430 years between the promise and its fulfillment. Between Egypt and Canaan they crossed the Red Sea, received the Law, were fed by manna in the wilderness – and still failed to fully trust God. And remember, the rise of Israel as a world power was only part of the promise. Faithful men like King David and prophets such as Isaiah would reveal more of God’s plan until the Son of Promise – not Issac, but Jesus – was born 2,ooo year after the promise was made to Abraham.
I wanted to take the time to explain this week what we will be doing for the next four Sundays, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are lessons to be learned in the waiting. Advent is the season of waiting for the appearance of Christ. Next week we have an Advent wreath set up with three purple and one white candle. In the center of the wreath will be the Christ candle. Each week we will celebrate, we will honor, the time of waiting and talk about the lessons we can learn during that time. 4,000 years pass between Adam and the birth of Jesus; we can wait four weeks for Christmas to get here. Christmas is joyous; it is the feast of the incarnation. Advent is about the waiting, the lament, the desire for joy to arrive. During Advent we will learn about our need for a savior, and at Christmas we will celebrate his appearing in the world. We will light the candles of the Advent wreath in order to illustrate the Light of the World coming to shine. Next week we will read scriptures, sing hymns and preach about Hope and light the Prophets candle. There are lessons in the waiting; we will honor God and his Holy Word by learning them together.
Peace and God bless!