The Waiting of Christmas
Topic: Christmas Passage: Luke 1:18–38
The Wonder of Christmas
Grace Community Church
Dec. 4, 2022
The Waiting of Christmas
Pray for the Hoflands as they travel to Michigan
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 1. This morning I’m starting a series called the Wonder of Christmas and the next four messages will be a journey through the story of Christ’s birth on that first Christmas morning. Here’s what we’re going to look at:
- The Waiting of Christmas
- The Worship of Christmas
- The Weeping of Christmas
- The Wonder of Christmas
In Luke 1, God sends His messenger Gabriel to bring a message to Zechariah who’s alone in the temple serving in a priestly role. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had waited and longed for a child for years and years but now they’re old and they’re not waiting anymore. Gabriel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth will bear a son and they would name him John and he will go in the power and spirit of Elijah as the forerunner of the Messiah. Let’s pick up the story in verse 18:
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servantof the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:18-38
When you think of Christmas, what are some words that come to mind? Love, peace, gift, Jesus, stable, star, shepherds, wise men, tree, and so on.
One word we might not associate with Christmas is the word, “waiting”. And yet waiting is a vital part of the Christmas story and the birth of Christ. A big part of the wonder of Christmas is the waiting of Christmas. God’s first promise about Jesus coming is found in Genesis chapter 3 after Adam and Eve had given in to the temptation of the serpent and had eaten of the forbidden fruit. God promised that one day a son born of the seed of woman would crush the head of the serpent.
Over the next 4000 years – 4000 years! - God gave promise after promise about Jesus revealing more and more about who Jesus is and what he would do. And so God’s people waited. And waited. 700 years before Jesus’ birth the prophet Isaiah prophesied that a virgin would conceive and he would be called Immanuel, God with us. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.
And God’s people waited. For another 700 years. 300 years later, still 400 years before that first Christmas morning, the prophet Malachi wrote:
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
And God’s people waited for the Christmas promise to be fulfilled for another 400 years, nearly twice as long as the United States has existed as a country.
Then at the appointed time, God sends Gabriel with a message for Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and a little later, Joseph. The wait is almost over, but it’s not over yet. He tells them what will happen. Then they have to wait some more.
Most of us don’t like to wait. Brian Regan points out that Pop Tarts has two sets of instructions: the toaster set and, for those who can’t find the minute and a half in their schedule, the microwave set so that they can cut that minute and a half down to 3 seconds and be on their way. We don’t like to wait.
But when we’re clinging to a promise in God’s word and we don’t see it happening, that waiting can be especially hard. Some in this room have been praying and believing a promise from God’s word for months or even years and it’s not happening and that waiting can wear us down. It can wear at our faith. It can make us ask questions of God and of ourselves. Many of those questions are found in the Psalms by others who were worn down by the wait: God, where are you? Have you forgotten me? Will you be angry with me forever? Why do you ignore my cries?
Waiting is a real thing. It’s a period of time between promise given and promise received. Between prayer lifted and prayer answered. Between blessing longed for and blessing bestowed. Waiting is a real thing, we don’t like it, but we do need it. Waiting is essential to our spiritual health and growth. I want to take just a couple minutes to share 3 blessings that come to us in the waiting time.
- Waiting gives us historical perspective
It’s easy for us to forget that history didn’t begin and it won’t end with us. We’re part of a much bigger historical narrative and God is the writer of that narrative. History really is His story.
All of human history toggles on the Christmas event. Even though that monk probably got the exact year of Jesus’ birth wrong, nevertheless we measure history as before Christ and after Christ (AD, the year of our Lord). Those who don’t believe in Christ measure it as BCE and CE (common era) but the toggle is still Jesus’ birth.
Before Jesus’ birth, God’s people looked forward to the day Jesus would come. Now we look back and in the Christmas season we celebrate his coming. But God’s people also look forward and wait for Jesus’ second coming.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Phil. 3:20-21
Maybe, just maybe, if we can see our lives in the bigger redemptive picture of history, it will help us have a better perspective on waiting.
- Waiting provides the resistance we need to build a strong faith
God’s promises are promises because there’s a wait involved. Faith is faith because there’s a wait involved. If God gave us everything immediately and we never had to wait for it, there would be no need for promises or faith. Waiting provides the resistance we need to build a strong faith in God’s promises.
We need resistance to grow strong physically. People lift weights (w.e.i.g.h.t.) to build strength because it takes resistance to build strength. Resistance bands do the same thing.
When we’re waiting for God to answer prayer or provide for a need or for grace to walk through a trial, that waiting period presses on us. We can’t change the situation, we can’t control the situation, we’re crying out to God and nothing’s happening and it presses on our faith in a unique way.
God is always faithful to keep His promises. 4000 years didn’t weaken or waver God’s commitment to His promises. 4 million years wouldn’t weaken God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. God doesn’t change His mind and He doesn’t forget. Not one promise God has made will ever fall to the ground. Time doesn’t wear on God like it does on us.
If you’re waiting on God for something, let the wait be a weight that strengthens your faith. Let the wait strengthen your prayers, don’t let it weaken your prayers. Let it press you into God’s word, not pry you from God’s word. The waiting time is a unique opportunity to praise God and declare His faithfulness before He fulfills His promise. God gets a special kind of glory when His people trust His faithfulness before they see His faithfulness.
Jesus came to save us from our sins, but we still live in the gray of waiting, don’t we? We still struggle with sin, we feel our own fallenness and weakness. We are broken and fallible and messy. How do we really know that we are forgiven of our sins? We don’t always feel forgiven, do we? How do we know we’re really saved and going to heaven?
We believe God’s promises and we proclaim God’s faithfulness.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom. 10:9
God’s word doesn’t tell us to look deep inside to be saved. It tells us to look to God and trust and believe and declare and proclaim His faithfulness and live by His promises and we will be saved. God promises. Waiting provides resistance to strengthen our faith in God’s promises.
- Waiting helps us trust God’s perfect timing
Gabriel told Zechariah, “these things will be fulfilled in their time.” God has perfect timing. He never gets it wrong. Jesus was born at the fulness of time, meaning the precise moment in time that was perfectly ordained for him to come.
Zechariah would have believed Gabriel in a heartbeat if Gabriel had visited him when he was still in his 20’s or 30’s. But he couldn’t believe that now was the right time for them to have a child. They were old, their time to have a kid long gone. But this was the precisely right time for John the Baptist to be born as the forerunner to Jesus.
Mary could also have questioned God’s timing. Really, God, now? I get pregnant now and it’s really hard to explain. Joseph will end our betrothal. People will brand me immoral. Give me a couple more months and I’ll be married to Joseph and then having a son will be a natural thing and God can make that son the Messiah.
Mary could have thought these things, but she submitted to God’s unusual timing: let it be to me according to your word. I trust your timing God.
Zechariah wanted the son to come sooner. Mary wanted the son to come later. But God had perfect timing with just six months between John’s conception and Jesus’ conception.
A big part of patience is being able to wait when we don’t want to wait. To live under the burden that waiting presses on our soul and trust that God knows best.