That year, my brothers wanted a Nintendo for Christmas, that original Nintendo system with Mario and maybe Tetris.
They felt like they were the last kids in the neighborhood to finally get a video game system.
But, my parents delayed. Should we have video games in the home? Would it rot our brains and catapult us into a life of crime?
Finally my parents decided that owning a Nintendo could open up a whole new world of discipline opportunities. When they misbehaved, my brothers could lose video game privileges. That’d get their attention.
So, my parents bought that Nintendo for Christmas and hid it under their bed until the big day.
Only, my brothers peeked.
And they got busted.
For their punishment, on Christmas morning, they had to open up that coveted Nintendo and then put it aside. They couldn’t play it yet. Oh no, they had to wait several months before they could actually maneuver Mario and Luigi around drain pipes and clouds to save the princess.
My sisters and I could play the Nintendo.
My parents could play the Nintendo (if they so chose).
But my brothers had to wait, and the wait was excruciating: to be so close and yet oh so far away.
Of course, we think we know how painful waiting is.
We groan about waiting on God.
We commiserate with other Christians who complain that they are just ‘waiting.’
I hate waiting.
Who doesn’t hate waiting?
If only God would step things up a little and get a move on. If only He would come through for us on our own timetable. If only He would cram Himself into our agenda.
We are anxious and hurried, demanding and impatient when God delays.
Waiting physically hurts. It steals sleep and turns stomachs. We pace. We fret. We take control. We lose control. We take control again. We demand and whine, cry and manipulate.
Yet, still He lingers.
God is never rushed or harried, stressed or overcome by deadlines or the impetuousness of His own people.
He didn’t skip the 40 years of desert training for Moses and just give him a one-month crash course in leading a nation.
He didn’t speedwalk those Israelites through the wilderness.
He didn’t clear out the Promised Land in a day or build Solomon’s temple overnight.
And He did not send His Son to earth to save us one century too early.
Do we even know what that wait was like?
How could we endure centuries of silence from heaven?
The Israelites came face to face with their desperate need for the Messiah constantly:
The sacrifices. The bleating of the lambs. The stench of the blood.
They couldn’t overlook or forget the deadly consequence of their sin-state.
They’d watch the slaughter today and know that they were only pure before God for one brief moment.
And then they’d sin again.
And the sacrifice would have to be made anew.
It was perpetual and constant. Day after day, year after year of the law and rules and punishment and sin and sacrifice.
They were oppressed and persecuted.
Still, God asked them to wait.
At Advent, we remember the intensity of the longing for our Savior. We recall how the world ached with its need for redemption.
And then Jesus came.
No more searching and longing, no more unfulfilled expectation, no more prophecies hanging unfulfilled.
No more need for sacrificial lambs because the Perfect Lamb had come.
No more imprisonment by sin and by the law.
No more waiting.
Simeon in the temple saw it. He had been “waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him” (Luke 2:25 NIV).
And when he saw Jesus, he lifted that infant Lord into his own arms and praised God:
For my eyes have seen your salvation (Luke 2:30 NIV).
He saw the promise fulfilled.
Christmas reminds us that God is at work even in the waiting and the seeming silence.
Advent tells us that God fulfills and completes His work at the perfect time, but He is ever-present, even in the interludes of expectation.
We learn here from shepherds and wise men, from prophets and priests, not to give up on God.
We take this to heart.
Yes, as we wait for marriages, for jobs, for restoration, for healing, for deliverance, for provision, for peace.
We choose expectant hope over disappointment and despair.
More than that, we live ever-ready and ever-longing for Christ’s return.
As the apostle John wrote:
The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20 NET).
Come, Lord Jesus!