Waiting

Wait? Expect? Sermon on Advent

Worship, , , automatically translated , Evangelical Free Church congregation Leichlingen

Introduction

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.

Abram

Let us begin with Abraham, or Abram, as he was called in the beginning (Genesis 12:1-4; NL):

1 Then the Lord commanded Abram: "Leave your home, your relatives and your father's family and go to the land that I will show you. 2 A great nation will descend from you. I will bless you and you shall be known throughout the world. I will make you a blessing to others. 3 Whoever blesses you, I will bless him also. Whoever curses you, I will also curse. All the nations of the earth will be blessed through you." 4 Abram set out as the Lord had commanded him. And Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.

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.

Jacob

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):

14 Then Laban said to him, "Yes, you really are my flesh and blood." Jacob had now been with him for a month, 15 Laban said to him, "You shall not work for me for nothing, just because you are my nephew. What do you want for wages?" 16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older one was called Leah, the younger one Rachel. 17 Leah had expressionless eyes, Rachel had a beautiful figure and face. 18 Jacob loved Rachel and therefore said, "Give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as a wife. In return, I will work with you for seven years." 19 Laban replied, "It is better that I give her to you than to a stranger. So stay with me." 20 So Jacob worked for Rachel for seven years, and because he loved her, the time seemed like a few days to him.

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.

Kaleb

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):

27 Their report was as follows: "We came to the land to which you sent us. Indeed, milk and honey flow there, and these are fruits that grow there. 28 But the people who live there are strong, and their cities are very large and well fortified; even the Anakites we have seen there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites in the mountains. The Canaanites dwell on the Mediterranean coast and in the Jordan Valley." 30 But Caleb encouraged the Israelites who opposed Moses, "Let us set out at once and take the land, for we can certainly conquer it!" he shouted. 31 But the other spies objected, "We can't go into battle against them, for they are stronger than we are." 32 And they presented the land they had explored negatively to the Israelites: "The land we passed through to explore is devouring its inhabitants. The people we saw there are very large.

As a result, the people begin to wail and want to return to Egypt (Deuteronomy 14:6-10; NL).

6 Two of the spies - Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh - tore their clothes. 7 and said to the Israelites, "The land we have walked through and scouted out is very good. 8 And if the Lord is good to us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us: It is a land flowing with milk and honey. 9 But do not rebel against the Lord, and do not be afraid of the inhabitants of the land. They will be easy prey for us! They have no protection, but with us is the Lord! So do not be afraid of them!" 10 The whole community wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb. But then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the tent of God.

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):

29 All of you shall die here in the desert! Because you have rebelled against me, none of you who are 20 years of age or older and have been mustered, 30 shall set foot in the land which I have sworn to give you. Only Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun shall be exempt.

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):

6 The men of the tribe of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. Caleb, the son of Jefunne the Kenazite, said to Joshua, "Remember what the Lord said to Moses the man of God about you and me in Kadesh-barnea. 7 I was 40 years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me out from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land. I returned and gave him a positive report with the utmost conviction, 8 but my brothers who had gone with me frightened the people and took away their courage. For my part, I followed the Lord my God completely. 9 Therefore Moses promised me then with an oath: `The land you have entered will be your family's inheritance forever, because you have followed the Lord my God completely.' 10 The Lord has kept me alive until now, as he promised. 45 years ago, during Israel's wilderness wanderings, he gave Moses this promise for me. Today I am 85 years old. 11 I am still as strong as I was when Moses sent me on a scout, and I am still spry and as good in battle today as I was then.

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:

13 Do not forget that the trials you face are the same trials that all people face. But God is faithful. He will not let the test become so strong that you can no longer resist. When you are tested, he will show you a way to withstand.

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?

Summary