The Wait of Christmas

Immersed in the sight of snow-packed roads and lightly dusted evergreens, my husband and I drove over the Cascades for Christmas with my family. We were deep in waiting. Waiting to find out why having children wasn’t easy for everyone. Waiting to see if the doctor would take young newlyweds seriously. Waiting for the perfect reply to come to mind when people asked the question alive in our own hearts—“When will you have kids?’” 

It was there, on that windy path over the mountain, when we got to the stretch of road where the radio signal goes fuzzy, that my husband and I had the first conversation I can remember about foster care. On the Oregon Hearts gallery, I had seen a picture of a 4-year-old little girl who was also waiting that Christmas. Waiting for a mom. Waiting for a dad. Waiting, even when she probably didn’t understand that her life was in upheaval far beyond that of her preschool peers. 

This Christmas season I have been pondering how our seasons of waiting mirror the story of humanity waiting for their rescuer. It is easy to flip through pages where we see generations of a family play out and say, of course, God was at work the entire time. It is much harder to believe God is present and at work while we sit in the wait.

No one who lived the stories I turn to when I need a reminder of God’s faithfulness knew what was coming.  Adam and Eve didn’t know their promised rescuer from eternal death would be born in a stable generations later. Israel’s son, Joseph, didn’t know his wrongful imprisonment would lead to his family’s safety and a continuation of the line in which the Savior would come. In year 399 of the silence after all the prophets foretold the coming suffering servant who would be called Immanuel, they had no idea the silence and wait were about to be over as angels announced that Jesus was the promised rescuer they had been waiting for. People waited their entire lifetime for this promise to be fulfilled. Many never lived to see the fulfillment of God’s promises. Hebrews 11recounts many lives filled with the tension of believing God when it didn’t make sense and waiting for the promise to be fulfilled.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Hebrews 11:1,13

We also spend our days waiting, and we don’t always get to see the answer or reason why. From a child waiting the unspeakably long 15 minutes for a snack to the woman waiting to hear back from the oncologist, we all are waiting for something. We wait for an assumed “moving on” from uncomfortable stages of life, when our life will be finally free of finals, diapers, or a rough work schedule. We wait for direction from God for the big and small decisions. For a family member to reconcile when we’ve done all we can do on our part. 

Sitting in the midst of wait is a tension of pain and hope.

At Christmas time, the childlike expectation of a magical and beautiful season can abruptly intersect with the reality of a broken world. All that feels dark and heavy can drape a weight over our days. We yearn for even one day of perfection and wholeness, yet our expectations only lead to more loss if we hope for light and wholeness simply from this season. We strive to make it meaningful, but a season cannot save. We need the Savior. Our pain directs us to our need for Jesus, the light of the world, who came to fulfill a long-awaited promise. 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6,8

At just the right time. Not on my schedule. Not because of anything I did. Our greatest need is already fulfilled in Christ, Our side of history looks back at the long wait for a Savior, while also experiencing our own. Jesus came the first time to conquer sin and death, but he is coming again to make all things right. As Sally Lloyd Jones writes in the Jesus Storybook Bible, “And the King says, “Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away. Or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue. And see – I have wiped away every tear from every eye!” 

No matter what we wait for this Christmas, whether or not we ever see it happen in our lifetime, followers of Jesus can hold onto the promise that the day is coming.

Holly Hawes writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. She is 30-something and has been married to Josh since 2010. She is Mom to a teenager by adoption, a child she’ll meet in heaven and often “bonus kids” via foster care. She loves creativity, the PNW, books, flowers, and sharing Jesus with hearts that need him.

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