It's Advent and every year you hear something about it. You know, "Advent" means arrival.
There are always two sides to an arrival: One who arrives and another who waits for it.
And on the subject of "waiting", the expression "Waiting for Godot", a play by Samuel Beckett, comes up very often. I think everyone knows the expression "Waiting for Godot", but hardly anyone has seen the play.
I took a look at a production on a well-known video portal, but I found it rather boring and the announced duration of 2 hours in connection with my limited life time made me quickly abandon the experiment. I found a comment under the video about this production funny:
"I'd rather watch a rusk go mouldy."
I then found a short version that lasted seven minutes and was played with Playmobil figures. That was enough for me to get an overview.
"Waiting for Godot" is an expression that refers to the compulsion to wait for a long, pointless and futile time.
But waiting does not always have to be like this and we find people here and there in the Bible who waited for something or even had to wait. And I would like to look at some of them with you today.
Let us begin with Abraham, or Abram, as he was called in the beginning (Genesis 12:1-4; NL):
At 75, he was no longer the youngest. However, one has to mention here that people got even older back then than they do today. So he was probably a bit fitter than the average 75-year-old today.
He sets out with his wife, his nephew's family and all his possessions, waiting for him, who has no children yet, to become the father of a great nation.
Arriving in Canaan, God extends the promise that he will not only have descendants, but that the descendants will also be given the land (Genesis 12:7). He will probably have lived as a nomad in tents and wanders around Canaan. He experiences many things along the way. Once they move to Egypt, where he gets into trouble. Then he separates from his nephew Lot because they were both just too rich. Then he goes to war and wins (Genesis 14). He meets a high priest of the Lord named Melchisedec. So he has a fulfilled life.
But he is getting older and still has no child. His wife Sarai seems to be infertile. Time slips through both their fingers.
Abram was now already 85 and Sarai comes up with the idea that Abram should sleep with her maid Hagar so that she can have a child. This works, but the pregnant Hagar now looks so clearly condescending to her barren mistress that she now treats her so badly that Hagar flees.
The whole story was actually a stupid idea, but God meets Hagar, so she came back.
Now Abram was 99 and Sarai 89 and God renews and extends his promise. Now Abram shall be called Abraham, as the father of many nations. In addition, there is to be an everlasting covenant between Abraham's descendants and God. And Sarai is renamed Sarah ("princess") and she is to bear a child. At that age, sexual union was already very unusual, even more so a procreation and a birth.
And then in (Genesis 21:1ff) Sarah really did have a son, Isaac.
They had to wait 25 years for God's promise to be fulfilled. And these 25 years fell at a time when, from a human point of view, the chance of having children of their own was dwindling.
They already had a fulfilled life, encountered God again and again, but the actual desire, the decisive promise they were waiting for, was not fulfilled for a long time.
Abraham was called "God's friend" (James 2:23) and lived his life with God in this way. Sometimes he certainly suffered from the fact that despite long waiting his wife did not have any children, although God had promised him some, and therefore also got involved in the matter with Hagar. So Abraham was not faultless. But he was sure that God meant well with him, and that was more important to him than the fulfilment of the promise.
After Sara's death, Abraham even married again in his old age and fathered another 6 sons who became the progenitors of nations. So he actually became the father of many nations.
Let's move on to another example from the Bible. Abraham had a grandson, Jacob, and he had a difficult childhood. As a young man, he ripped off his brother Esau for his inheritance and because his mother feared that Esau would take revenge, she persuaded her husband to send Jacob far away to live with his uncle Laban.
He arrives there and gets on well with him (Gen 29:14-20; NL):
Waiting seven years for the woman, that's hard. Who waits seven years today! But because he loved her, the time only seemed like a few days.
I find this statement interesting. Is waiting easier when you know what you are waiting for? When you are looking forward to something?
Let us briefly compare the waiting of Abraham and Jacob. Abraham had a "someday" promise that was not so easy to reconcile with the reality of his life. He and his wife just kept getting older.
For Jacob, it was easier to wait, at least so far, because he had a firm promise that he would get his wife after seven years.
But impatience was not an option for either of them.
I would like to look at another example, Caleb.
A few generations after Jacob, the people of Israel had by now landed in Egypt and were to be led by God back to Canaan, the Promised Land. When they camped at the border of Canaan, 12 scouts were chosen, of whom Caleb was one, to look at the land.
When they returned, they gave the following account (Numbers 13:27-32; NL):
As a result, the people begin to wail and want to return to Egypt (Deuteronomy 14:6-10; NL).
The story then ends in such a way that the grumbling adults are not allowed into the promised land, but only their children are, with two exceptions (Genesis 14:29,30; NL):
And it is supposed to take 40 years until they then enter the promised land.
So Caleb has to wait at least 40 years. Who waits 40 years for the fulfilment of a promise?
But it will be fulfilled (Joshua 14:6-11; NL):
Caleb even had to wait 45 years. At 85, he is claiming the promise of that time and God has made sure that he still can.
In Caleb's time, people didn't live to be that old, so 85 was rather rare.
And I think most people today would feel cheated if they had to wait 45 years for something and only got it at 85. You don't get anything out of it at 85. You complain about your ailments and only talk about the past, and you don't want any more changes either.
But for Caleb it suited him and he also seemed to be looking forward a little to taking his promised land.
I believe that God makes our waiting suitable for us. So it says generally in 1 Corinthians 10:13; NL:
Other translations write here that we can bear it.
God does not burden us with more than we can bear. This is what happened to Abraham, Jacob and Caleb, and these three are just a small selection of people who have been on the road with God.
What are we waiting for?
For one thing, we're waiting for Christmas, which always comes as such a surprise. Have you already ordered everything? Or - of course - made them yourselves?
But what are we really waiting for in life?
When I was a young man, I waited for the right woman. I wanted a believing woman, so I closed my heart to non-believers. That worked somehow. But I was past my mid-twenties and there was still no one.
Here and there, an elderly lady in our congregation said: "The way he walks around, he'll never find one. And then all of a sudden there was one.
What are you waiting for? The end of school, education, for the children to finally move out? I myself didn't move out until I was 29, so I don't feel so entitled to push.
Personally, I have not received a specific promise of a special event from God, like Abraham now, for example.
On the other hand, as a Christian you are waiting for the return of the Lord. But how much does this expectation affect everyday life?
I'm on holiday now and am in the process of cleaning up my DIY workshop. The first thing I did was to build a new workbench. That was fun, but also very exhausting.
If the gentleman comes back next week, I could have done without it. On the other hand, if he doesn't come for two years, then at least I'll have a tidy workshop for two years, which will make my life easier.
Perhaps the term "waiting" is not enough. Perhaps one should rather speak of "expecting".
What do we expect? What do we expect? Abraham did not always really expect the promised child, but he did expect God; after all, he was called God's friend.
Jacob worked for seven years in anticipation of his wife, but it seemed very short because he was looking forward to the goal.
And Caleb did not just bide his time, he lived in anticipation of the promised promised land.
What do we expect? Is the return of Jesus Christ just something we believe to be true? Or is it something that has an impact. Do we expect that Jesus has something in mind for our church? That if we ask him, he wants to do something with and in us, to change something?
Can we, like Abraham, live as friends of God and bear such a wait well?
And do we believe, like Caleb, that God fulfils his promises, even if it takes a long time?
- Arrival also includes someone waiting for it.
- Abraham lived with God, but he had to wait 25 years for the fulfilment of the promise and partly did not really believe in it himself.
- Jacob had to work and wait seven years, and it seemed short to him because he loved Rachel.
- Caleb was faithful to God and was rewarded despite a long wait.
- What are we waiting for? What do we expect? Do we expect that Jesus has something in mind for our congregation? That if we ask him, he will do something with and in us, change something?