by Rev. Mary Frances Thompson, Ministry Assistant Greenwood First Baptist, Field Director for the State Committee for Epiphany
I do not wait well. It may take me a while to make a decision to do or buy something, but once the decision is made I am ready for action, I am ready to use my purchase. Several years ago, I had the privilege to go on a missions trip to Kenya. The beginning of the trip was delayed because of bad weather. Due to plane schedules, the group had to wait from Wednesday to Sunday to start our trip. What a long span of days! My experience in Kenya was wonderful. I did not want to leave. However, once I was on the plane home, I wanted to be home. I remember flying over the Alps, a beautiful mountain range indeed. What was my thought, as I looked out the plane window? “That’s a nice view, now let’s get home.”
Some waiting goes on for so long that we begin to act as if the awaited event is never going to happen. It becomes a some day . . . . If most of us are honest that is the way we view the second coming of Christ. Scripture teaches that Christ will come again so we keep the Second Coming as part of our doctrine, but do we really expect (or want) that event to happen in our lifetime. After all, it has been two thousand or so years and it hasn’t happened yet. I think many people viewed the coming of the Messiah this way. The Hebrew scripture promised a Redeemer was coming. The Jewish people, who were well acquainted with hardship, exile, occupation of their land, and waiting, hoped the Messiah would come soon. Yet, how many really thought it would be in their lifetime?
Then an angel appeared to a young girl. She was told she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary had to wait. She had to wait for nine months for her son to be born. She had to wait for that son to grow into a man and for that man to begin his ministry of teaching and preaching. She had to wait to see how Jesus and his band of seemingly misfit disciples would become a force of redemption. She watched her son be crucified and then had to wait as he lay in the tomb for three days. She had to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to anoint the followers of Jesus with the power to change the world.
In many ways, the world was changed. Two thousand or so years later, we continue to commemorate the birth, death, and resurrection of Mary’s son. And, we wait. We wait for Christmas. We wait for the promised hope, peace, and redemption. We wait for the kingdom of God to come.
We do not wait well. We fill our time, our hearts, and our surroundings. While lights and other decorations, brightly colored gift-wrap and bows, Christmas pageants and holiday music are enjoyable, none of our preparations bring lasting hope, peace, or even joy. We anxiously wait for Christmas, and then, too often, we miss it. In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus is asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus replied, “’The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’” (Luke 17:20-21, NRSV). The footnote in the NRSV says “among” can be translated “within.” The first Christmas ushered in the kingdom of God. We do not have to wait. When we allow Jesus to live within us, the kingdom of God is within us. The world is waiting for the followers of Christ to bring the kingdom of God to a visible reality, a life changing, and world changing reality. What are we waiting for?