I believe one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind is the self-checkout lane. If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, some stores now offer checkout lines where you can scan your own items and even pay for them without the assistance of a checker. For an impatient person like myself, this is akin to graduating from the horse-drawn buggy to a gas-powered automobile. In addition to making me feel somewhat more independent than when I have to depend upon someone else to ring me up, the fact that the self-checkouts are generally designed for people who don’t have many items generally ensures I don’t have to wait in line very long to use one of them.
Unfortunately, though, that is not always the case. Inevitably, I will get stuck behind someone who is either using a self-checkout for the first time and doesn’t understand how to use it or has decided to purchase their entire month’s worth of groceries there unassisted. This actually happened to me last week. As I was waiting (impatiently) in line, though, I had a sort of revelation about the season we currently find ourselves in – the season of Advent.
I don’t remember hearing much about Advent when I was growing up. To be honest, I’m still a little hazy on some of the details of the season, but I do know this much: The main theme of Advent is to wait expectantly for the Christ. Now, since Jesus already was born, lived, and died, most of the focus of Advent these days focuses on the Second Coming of Christ, as we eagerly await the return of Jesus. To gain some Christmas perspective, though, let’s think for a minute about all those people who had to wait the first time around.
When you find yourself waiting in a long line, as I did last week, do you think to yourself, “This is wonderful! I have all this time to think and ponder how great it’s going to be when I finally reach the front of the line!” I’m guessing you probably didn’t. I can tell you for certain that’s not what I was thinking. I really wanted to get to the front of that line, and having to wait seemed like a terrible injustice to me.
I would say my wait was less than five minutes. Now consider this: The book of Isaiah was written nearly 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Some biblical scholars believe the promise of a messiah came as early as the book of Genesis (“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” – Genesis 3:15 ESV). Regardless of your stance on that opinion, there is no denying the hopeful words of the prophet Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
The book of Isaiah contains some other words, though, that we can probably all relate to: “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted…” (Isaiah 40:30 ESV). It is easy to grow weary in waiting. The fact that God’s word even goes so far as to tell us we will grow weary should indicate to us that holding on to the hope of things to come is sometimes not an easy process. It is in these times, though, that our eyes can drift a little further down the page and see these words: “…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 ESV)
As we sometimes impatiently await the blessed Second Coming of Christ, isn’t it a blessing that we can turn to the Bible and see how during the first period of Advent the faith of God’s saints was ultimately rewarded with the birth of a child in the city of Bethlehem? “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” It may be Advent now, but Christmas is coming, so let us lean on the testimonies recorded in God’s word when we become weary in this season of waiting.
Merry Christmas, everyone. See you in the checkout line…