Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—
Yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
— Isaiah 11:1
In Advent: The Paradox of What Matters we talked about the paradox of what really matters in Advent, and for that matter, our lives itself. Today, we discuss the problem of what matters, namely, the necessary, but often unwanted element of waiting.
Waiting. A quick trip to your local grocery store checkout line will give ample evidence that our anxiety ridden age is growing more and more impatient in spite of the fact that our new, amazing technological gadgets are giving us all more time. However, the hilarious absurdity of this earned, extra time is often taken up, not in relaxing or enjoying the moment, but in stacking more stress upon ourselves by multitasking. So, were not very good at waiting and it appears to be getting all the worse. This instant-everything culture fuels frustration at even the slightest wait we encounter.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:
Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. The greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws sprouting, growing, and becoming.
We are drawn back to our text today, “out of the stump of David’s family will grow shoot, yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root” (Isaiah 11:1).
Envisioning this botanical metaphor for the Advent of the promised Messiah, the question is asked, “Can anything on earth take a slower, steadier pace than the growth of a tender little plant shoot?” Probably not. Did you know that the saguaro cactus is the slowest growing plant in the world? It only grows 1 inch each year. The slowest growing tree is the cedar tree, which takes on hundred and 150 years to grow 4 inches.
Yet, during Advent, were reminded of all those centuries upon centuries when God’s people had no choice but to wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises.
You would be right to guess they probably wondered, especially during times of difficult adversity, like the Babylonian and Assyrian captivity, “When will the Lord finally bring deliverance to His people by sending His promised Deliverer?”
It must have seemed like a impossibly painful wait, indeed. We are so fortunate to be on this side of the cross, blessed to have the historical witness of the first coming of Christ, the creation of the church, the written document of Holy Scripture and two-thousand years of glorious faith tradition to sink our spiritual roots down even deeper to. They did not.
In New Testament, the prodigal son suffered a total lack of patience and immediately demanded his inheritance only to squander it and come near to losing his life in the process. In life itself, romantic souls who are not willing to patiently cultivate the soil of friendship with another and wait for the sprouting of real love to sprout, are never blessed to enjoy the sweetest intimacy and deepest, personal relationship with another; truly two becoming one.
Specifically, what other practical benefits, come from embracing God’s attribute of patience, the fruit of the Holy Spirit? Waiting reminds us that were not center of the universe. Being forced to wait gives us the opportunity to remember that other people have plans and priorities, as well. It’s not all about us! This is a much needed corrective for many contemporary believers today. Waiting reminds us that God is in control; God is sovereign, not our plans, nor our ambitions.
The phrase, “wait on the Lord” is used over (50) times in the Bible. Considering the repetitive nature, of Scripture’s emphasis on patience in our personal relationship with Christ, the concept of waiting tells us our spiritual journeys are more a part of God’s story, God’s plan and God’s promises, than most of us realize. Moreover, the more autonomous and independent we endeavor to become, as Christians, the less patient and more frustrated we will surely get. Waiting helps us think differently about both the present and the future; valuing the present as a gift, cherishing the future as our ultimate hope.
- How can assuming a more trusting posture with God affect our ability to be patient in waiting on Him in our lives?
- How does waiting on God differ from just waiting in line at a retail store?
- Studies indicate the primary objection to Christianity is the problem of evil. How can we better witness to non-believers as to the critical need for waiting on God versus giving up on Him?
- Think about the times you have waited on God for something special, would you say now that it was worth the wait? What did you learn in waiting on God?
- Prayer . . .
- Father, This Advent grant your children a more trusting posture toward you. Enable us to grow in patience in waiting upon you in all aspects of our lives . . . sharing the light of your Son Christ Jesus in a broken, impatient world. In the name of your Son Christ Jesus, Amen.
Editor’s note: David’s rich Advent reflection led me to add the prayer “in” Response. If you missed Part 1, I encourage you to take time to prayerfully consider Advent: The Paradox of What Matters. Once again, “Thank-you!” to David for blessing the Emerging Scholars Network through his writing. To God be the glory! ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network