The World Still Waits
We often sing the carol, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” yet the world during the time of the event of His birth was largely unaware of what had happened. The coming of Someone who had been so long awaited was a non-event for all but a few. Even today the reality of Jesus is a non-event for most of the world. I heard a statistic recently that in the US, only about half of the population thinks of Christmas as a religious holiday and celebrates it as such. As you can imagine, in most other countries the statistics are much lower. Unlike the statement in the song, this is not a Child that most of the world even has had on its radar screen let alone has waited for.
While some carols declare that Jesus is the King we have been waiting for, it is not the reality for most of those who sit in churches week after week, let alone the world at large. They aren’t sure if they are waiting, let alone for Jesus, but deep down there is an emptiness they rarely acknowledge, let alone identify. Have you ever been hungry for “something”, but as you cruise through the cupboards and let all the chill out of the refrigerator on this fruitless quest, you can’t just figure out what you want? You may try this or that, but it doesn’t satisfy, and yet—what is it you really want? Spiritually speaking, that is where much of the world is. They aren’t satisfied, they aren’t filled. They keep trying this or that, but it isn’t IT. They may have IT staring them in the face, and still miss IT altogether.
The fact that they don’t necessarily realize “this is the King, we’ve waited for”, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to declare His coming as true, in fact their indifference should only add to the fervor of our declaration. We’re saying, “Wake up, sleeping world! Don’t you get it? This is IT! This is the One for whom you’ve been waiting, even if you haven’t even realized you’ve been waiting!” Such a message is a declaration of truth, but it is also a testimony of our own experience of finding what we had been waiting for, and it is an invitation to “taste and see” for those still groping around the eternal refrigerator for the IT that will finally satisfy their empty, craving soul—the very thing for which they’ve been waiting.
This is also a declaration of challenge to ourselves. We may say He was the promised Messiah, and that He will return as King, but are we living in that reality? Are we really, actively waiting? Or are we sleeping like Bethlehem was the day Jesus was born, unwatchful, unaffected by the looming reality that our King is coming into our midst? Is what we believe about His coming merely a mental assent, or has it become a part of our conscious daily living? Unlike when He came the first time, when He returns it won’t be quietly unnoticed by the world. He will come in ways that makes the nations tremble.
One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel—God is with us, or among us. That God is among us is true not merely because He is everywhere, it is intended to be a vivid part of our lives. We need to ask ourselves if it is it a reality in the sense that He is manifestly among us? Is He God with us, in tangible, evident ways? Is His presence a reality in our lives? Is it a reality in our midst when we gather to worship? Do people who meet us know there is something different about us because His fragrance is there? Do people enter our fellowship and know there is the presence of the Lord with us because of our love for one another and for them? Do they see that we’ve found what we’ve been waiting for? Again, when we declare this statement that He is with us we are proclaiming hope and intention as much as reality. If we want this to be true in our fellowship, we must declare it with the intention it will be true in each of our individual lives. We need to consider, “If the reality of God’s Immanuel presence in our church depends on me being having His Immanuel presence in my own heart, how close is our church to exhibiting that He is among us? How well do we do at displaying the fact that we’ve found what we’ve been waiting for?”
Another statistic I heard this week was that a majority of people who come to faith in Christ do so through their interaction with a family member or friend. People who share the joy and satisfaction of finding what they’ve been looking for, cause their loved ones to realize that their emptiness can be filled by Him, as well. They find that longing for whatever IT is, is found in who He is. Their wait can be over, and Christmas can at last come in their hearts, full of hope, joy, and peace. This season, let’s share with others how the long awaited One is within reach. We know, because we’ve experienced IT (Him) ourselves.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries