Christmas with a Purpose: The Waiting

if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

2 Timothy 2:13

Have you ever noticed Waiting can be the greatest enemy of Faith, Expectation and Hope?

Waiting can be hard. In life and in the Bible there are many times when people have been waiting. In your life you may be waiting for something to change, but it has seemed like an eternity since things have been good.

I have found the three types of waiting that cause the most Doubt, Anxiety, and Fear…

  • Waiting on hold
  • Waiting for that repair or delivery person who gave you an 8 hour range time frame
  • Waiting in traffic

These three types of waiting quickly become the greatest enemy of your faith you will ever be able to talk to someone, your expectation of someone helping you, and your hope you will ever get to where you wanted to go.

These are fairly small daily waiting problems, but what about waiting for the bigger issues. Your health to improve, your finances to be in the black, your job to become secure, and your family and friends coming to Christ.

The waiting can be very difficult, but I believe we can learn from Zechariah the Priest in the waiting.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Luke 1:5-25

Zechariah was one of the priests and it was part of this job to offer incense in the holy place. As this job was considered very dangerous they gambled to see who the “unlucky” one would have to do it this time. At the time these men where doing this God had not spoken to the people of Israel for about 400 years. This is a long time of not experiencing God’s presents in the temple. However it was still the custom to randomly choose who would go in. Zechariah is chosen, because God wanted to meet with him after 400 years.

Before we continue it is important to notice the first of the two things we must do in the waiting.

1. Obey God

In those moments of waiting when we just can’t hold on anymore we MUST continue to obey God.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 

Luke 1:6

This is an important component of our answered prayers. When we allow the waiting to steal our hope we can quickly begin to choose a right now pain relief. Instead of continuing to follow after God and trust that He is worth honoring and obeying we begin to go our own way. Zechariah and Elizabeth did not fall into this trap. They continued to follow God, even though it seemed as their prayers weren’t heard or answered. This is a strong commitment to the truth. We too must follow after God when we are seeing and experiencing His power or not and we are in a season of waiting.

This is the first thing we must remember as we are in a season of waiting…God is real and is worthy of our honor and worship; even if life isn’t easy.

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,

    but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.

18 There is surely a future hope for you,

    and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:17-18

When we are zealous or passionate about following after God we will have a hope for a better future.

Zechariah was a righteous man, but he and the other priests lacked expectation. Because of their lack of expectation they became complacent and faithless in the waiting. They honored and worshiped God with their actions, but they lacked the faith that something was really going to happen. We know this because of his reaction to the angel Gabriel and the confusion of the priests outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear…18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?…21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 

Luke 1:11-12,18,21

Zechariah was in the temple worshiping God. This should have been the place where people expected to encounter God, but they had lost their expectation or faith for something to change in those 400 years of waiting.

2. Expectation

The second thing we must do in the waiting is to expect God to move. Waiting is a double edge sword. One side builds expectation, hope, and faith; but the other side builds apathy, doubt, and fear.

When you are sitting there in traffic and your 10 minute drive has already been over an hour, remember in the waiting you have a choice to make: Believe you will get there trusting God will see you through OR give up on hope, peace, becoming angry or fearful.

It is your choice to choose a waiting in expectation or waiting in doubt!

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Psalm 62:5-7 ESV

Zechariah had prayed for a child, but after waiting and waiting he lost his expectation for God to do something in their family. Even when he met the angel he still struggled to come back to faith and hope in God’s promises.

Once this happens and we loose our expectation; it is hard to see ourselves as God sees us. We can quickly fall into looking at ourselves as failures or worthless. This apathy will often cause us to miss the things God does begin to fulfill in our lives. This happened to Zechariah. The angel promised the child John and the promise that had been waiting for over 400 years; that would be fulfilled in John.

17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Luke 1:17

Zechariah would have known the prophets Isaiah and Malachi foretold and in hearing this he should have realized this meant the Messiah would be coming SOON! But instead he continued to doubt instead of coming back into expectation and hope.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;

make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:3-5

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.

Malachi 4:5

Every year the Jews celebrate Passover with a place set for the prophet Elijah. This was an expectation that before the Messiah could come Elijah would come declaring His coming. But when we loose our real expectation we will miss God’s answers to our prayers.

There are times when just like Zechariah we can be praying and waiting for such a long time we don’t stop the praying or honoring God, but we stop expecting answers to those prayers.

Thankfully Zechariah regained his expectation and hope for God’s promises. We too can come back to real expectation in our faith walk. When he came out of the temple and couldn’t speak, he accepted God’s “punishment” for not having faith. He didn’t fight it; he was a man who wanted to obey God in everything, including being silent in the waiting. As David wrote…

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

    for my hope is from him.

Then when the waiting was over and John was born Zechariah got to experience God’s promises in the waiting. This time he had expectation and began prophesying because he had allowed God to work while trusting He would.

Obey God with Expectation is what we are called to do in the waiting.

Christmas is all about expectation, hope, and waiting. Maybe you remember being a kid laying in your bed on Christmas Eve WIDE AWAKE! All you could do was think about the amazing things that you would get to open the next morning. This is expectation like none other. When the stores begin putting up lights and the radio starts playing Christmas Music all we can think is the fun, joy, love, and hope for Christmas. Waiting in expectation brings more joy, more hope, and more faith into our lives. Christmas helps us to grow in our ability to choose expectation over apathy and doubt.

Without Zechariah moving from faithlessness to faithfulness we would not have Christmas.

The purpose in the waiting is to build expectation, hope, and faith!

Allow this Christmas season to help you build expectation for hope of what God will do!

God Bless and BeTheLIGHT

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