Waiting in the Darkness
When I was a child, my family spent several Christmases with my dad’s sister and her family. I can’t recall a night I fought harder against the looming heaviness of sleep, than in those early years on Christmas Eve. My cousin, sister, and I would sprawl out on the floor of her bedroom, peering through the crack of the door into the living room below. We’d wait in the dark for our parents to go to bed, because we knew that until they left the room, Santa Claus wouldn’t be able to arrive with our presents. Each moment was a battle of the will to keep my drooping eyes open, my weary body alert to spring up when I finally heard the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof. And each minute crawled on for an eternity as we waited eagerly in the dark.
What I experienced on a minute scale as a child on Christmas Eve, we see demonstrated in Psalm 130, and in our own lives as believers. The psalmist writes, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6, ESV). As the watchman waits in the dark, is it possible he doubts that the night will end? No! That’d be foolishness. He knows the darkness won’t last forever. And that knowledge actually enhances the eagerness with which he waits, scanning the sky for the first light on the horizon.
We, as the Lord’s children, know the Lord will return. For “in his word [we] hope” with confidence that his promises are true (Psalm 130:6, ESV). But the trust in the Lord’s promise to return doesn’t remove dissatisfaction of the present moment. It heightens our anticipation; making the hard things harder, the ugly things uglier, the sad things sadder. We know that these pains won’t last forever and we long for the darkness and suffering of this present world to end!
Our act of waiting mirrors the faithful Israelites in the Old Testament as they waited for the promised Messiah. This practice of waiting in anticipation is a worthy and natural response of each believer. As we reflect on the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises in the birth of Christ at the first Christmas, we should recognize that we also engage in this act of waiting for Christ’s return as the conquering King.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer observes that “not everyone can wait. Neither the sated, nor the satisfied, nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them and people who look up with reverence to the greatest in the world” (Bonhoeffer, 6). Oh people of God, during this Advent season, actively practice the art of waiting. Be vigilant in your anticipation that you may be found like one of the five virgins who kept the flames in their lamps burning even in the darkest of night. For we know the bridegroom is coming. He brings the dawn, casting light into the darkness. Are you eagerly waiting for his return?