Over 2000 years ago, in the most unassuming and unexpected way, hope was born in the form of a baby.
For generations, the nation of Israel, God’s people had been waiting for a messiah… a savior and king that would deliver them from bondage and save their people.
For decades… waiting… wondering… what would the messiah look like… how would he show up… what would happen when he did?
For the next few weeks, as we lead up to our Christmas Eve services, we are leaning into this idea of waiting and specifically, what we do while we’re waiting.
In the midst of the Christmas season... in the midst of 2021 coming to an end… in the midst of stress… in the midst of another school year… in the midst of your relationships and careers… in the midst of a new reality…
What are you waiting for?
Maybe you’re waiting for an apology?
Waiting for things to get a little easier?
Maybe you’re waiting for test results?
Waiting for a breakthrough?
Waiting for things to get back to normal?
Waiting for everyone to stop mentioning how hard the last 18 months have been?
Maybe you’re waiting for a Bengals Super Bowl?
Or, waiting for just the right time to buy or sell stocks of Disney or US Steel?
Waiting for him to propose?
Waiting for vacation?
Waiting for the housing market to change?
Maybe you’re waiting for her to finally come back home?
Or waiting to feel appreciated?
Waiting to be seen?
Maybe you’re waiting for a baby?
Waiting for things to change?
Waiting for the pain to go away?
What are you waiting for?
Anyone waiting for Christmas?? It’s only 20 days away. It’s my favorite time of year. What are you waiting for… for Christmas?
A PS5… a new truck… a little blue box from Tiffany’s… an Oculus Quest 2… a Hoverboard… Barbie Dreamhouse… AirPods… the perfect YETI tumbler for concealing your day drinking… (I know my people, I appreciate a good YETI!)
What are you waiting for… for Christmas?
…An official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle?
We’re all waiting for something… big… small… insignificant… serious…
What are you waiting for?
Waiting is hard for most of us and easy for a few of us… but we’re all waiting.
A lot of times when we finally receive something we’ve been waiting for, we assume happiness will follow, and we’ll instantly be satisfied. When in reality, most of the time, we quickly find ourselves disappointed and now waiting for something else.
Regardless of whether our waiting feels easy or hard… how we wait shapes who we become.
Is there any wonder in your waiting?
Remember when you were a kid and you saw a wrapped present under the tree? You just couldn’t wait to open it. You’d tried to figure out what it could be by looking at it, but nobody would let you touch the present… it was torture.
So, if you were like me, you would sneak down to the tree late at night to inspect the packages, stepping ever so quietly towards the tree… like you were Indiana Jones trying not to step on a booby trap.
You’d finally arrive at the tree and your eyes filled with awe and wonder. You would take in the presents and you’d identify which present you were going to dare inspect. You’d take a deep breath and carefully pick up one of the presents, silently shake them. Masterfully, you’d try to peel the tape away to get a glimpse of what was inside.
There was so much wonder in the waiting…
Do you still have wonder in your waiting?
I think an even harder question I’ve had to face more times than I care to admit is whether or not there is any worship in my waiting?
I want to share with you a section of scripture that may be familiar to some of you. It’s found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 2. You may have heard it around Christmas time. It’s about the night Jesus was born.
Luke 2:8-20 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
Lots of stuff going on here… angels, baby Jesus in his golden fleece diaper lying in a manger, Mary and Joseph. We’re going to talk about all of that over the next three weeks, but today, I just want to zero in on the shepherds.
First, I want us to see that this incredible and unexpected event happens to ordinary people in the middle of doing what they normally do.
Don’t miss the miracle in the mundane.
For those of us who follow Jesus, sometimes we fall into this thinking that for us to see the miracles and wonders of God, we have to change everything, abandon everything, and go be a missionary in the Congo.
Listen, unless God specifically calls you to be a missionary to the Congo, he’s called you to be a missionary right where you are. In your school, in your neighborhood, in your workplace, and in your family.
Now, God could have chosen anyone to reveal the news of the birth of Jesus to, right? But he chose to share the greatest news the world has ever heard to shepherds… in the midst of shepherds doing what shepherds do. And this isn’t accidental. God will use you right where you are if you are willing to be used right where you are for his good and for his glory.
As I was doing my research about these shepherds, I came across something fascinating. The shepherds in our story may have been the shepherds who cared for the temple sheep that were specifically born and raised to be sacrificed in the temple in Jerusalem.
Historically, the place where the angels appeared to the shepherds is traditionally known as the “Tower of the Flock,” or Migdal Eder, which is just outside of Bethlehem. The shepherds at Migdal Eder would raise Passover lambs. They would place the lambs in a stone manger to inspect them and certify them for use as sacrifices in the temple. The new lambs would then be wrapped in special swaddling strips of cloth once certified.
This was like a "mind blown" moment as I was researching this because it would mean Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God, who sacrificed his life to take away the sins of the world, was born in the same place where, for generations, Passover lambs were born and bred for one particular reason… to be sacrificed.
This obscure shepherd moment in the middle of our Christmas story now has so much more depth and meaning behind it.
Jesus being born in Migdal Eder, aka the Tower of the Flock would also be the fulfillment of one of the messianic prophesies, written over 600 years before Jesus’ birth, found in Micah 4:8 that says:
And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, even the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.
Meaning the future King, the messiah, will not just come from the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), but this prophecy says the messiah will come to the Tower of the Flock.
This is like one of those hidden scenes at end of the Marvel movies… (mind blown).
For years, these shepherds were doing what they do wrapping Passover lambs in strips of cloth… only one day to find themselves face to face with the Lamb of God, baby Jesus, wrapped in strips of cloth. A baby lamb… born to die.
It’s no wonder then, we read that upon seeing this baby born in a manger, the shepherds told everyone what had happened, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
The shepherds chose praise over pride.
They sacrificed their expectations. They had been waiting for a messiah just like everyone else. No one expected the messiah to show up in this way. But instead of holding onto what they thought, or how they wanted things to happen, or when, on their timetable, and in their way… instead, they simply chose to praise. They chose to get wrapped up in the awe and wonder and mystery of God at work in their midst.
How tightly we hold onto our expectations is connected to how easily we see the wonder in our waiting.
Open hands are connected to an open heart ready to be filled by God.
Is there worship in our waiting? Is there pride or praise?
In the midst of waiting… in the midst of the mundane, we can easily get caught up in making everything about us.
“How come this is happening? Why did it happen? How come it hasn’t happened? Why didn’t this happen, when I wanted it and how I wanted it?"
We can make things about ourselves pretty fast if we’re not careful.
Listen, it’s not wrong to ask the questions… ask all the questions. But are we choosing to seek and see God in the midst of the questions... in the midst of disappointment or the unexpected… in the midst of the waiting?
I am so humbled and in awe of the countless women, students, and men who are leading by example in this way.
When a wife lost her husband a year ago to cancer, I watched her lift her hands the very next Sunday and praise God for his goodness and mercy.
When a mother had a miscarriage after waiting for so long for a baby, I saw her and her husband dig into their faith, serving in their community, and watched as their worship went to an even deeper and raw level.
When a father lost a son to addiction, and his response was we’re trusting Jesus. I watch as they keep giving God praise knowing their son is healed and at peace now.
When a student, who has lost everything... whose parents abandoned him and all of his material possessions gone… all he had were his friends and his church and I watched as he kept serving others, worshiping God, going out of his way to help younger kids and those in need.
Each one of them had lots of questions along the way. Each one of them was waiting in different ways but each of them gave praise every step of the way. Because of that, they found purpose and peace in the waiting. They found a sense of wonder in their waiting.
I know things might be challenging right now. I know things are hard. I know there is so much uncertainty. I know the waiting can be almost unbearable at times.
I just want to encourage you to worship while you wait. Be patient and give praise in the middle of the waiting.
I have a hard time with this but thank God for my son, Noah. When he sees me struggling, he’ll remind me, “Daddy, patience is just the strength to wait. And you’re really strong… so you can do this.”
Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.
Psalm 27:14 Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Please hear my heart, I’m not trying to minimize what you are going through in the middle of your waiting. I’m not trying to prescribe antidotal scriptures that sound cute.
I’ve just been through hell in my life and the only thing that got me through it was God’s word and God’s people delivering on God’s promises.
This isn’t antidotal for me. This is what changed my life. This is stuff that gives us the power to praise in the middle of the mundane and waiting….This is the only way we can…
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
If we choose to praise in the waiting…
We will find wonder in the waiting…
We will find HOPE in the waiting.