My family could tell you that I’m not good at ‘waiting.’ Waiting can be excruciatingly difficult sometimes. When I was a child it was hard to wait for company to come for a visit. Sometimes I’d even go out in the street or ride my bike in the direction our relatives were coming. As an adult that has mellowed, but I still find it hard to wait when I’m ready to do something.
As such, waiting for this pandemic to pass is difficult. Waiting for the vaccine to arrive so we can all get inoculated will be equally hard. I heard this past week it will probably be sometime in June when we are all vaccinated. That’s amazingly fast, but still it’s hard to wait. We want to get on with our lives, but we must remain calm and vigilant until then.
There is a scene in the Diary of Anne Frank, the story of Jews living through the horror of the Nazi Regime, that poignantly tells the struggle of waiting. Anne Frank and her fellow Jews were hiding in the attic of a family that was harboring the Jews from the Nazis. When it was night, and everything was silent, they would push back a segment of the roof and look out into the dark skies over Amsterdam searching the skies for allied planes making their way to Nazi Germany. They so desperately awaited the allied invasion. They knew their only hope of deliverance was for when the Allies would come, and the Nazis would be driven out.
Night after night they waited and looked. And then there was that glorious night when they pushed back the covering over the hole in the roof, looked up and saw planes flying above. Their hope for deliverance was being realized.
Desperately waiting. Waiting for deliverance, because the situation could not be rectified by anything they could do.
Our waiting can be desperate as well. We could be desperately waiting for the time when we are free to roam about the country once again. We are waiting for the vaccines to be approved and delivered to bring the hope of an end to our isolation, fear, exhaustion, and for too many the threat of death.
We’re being forced into what could be termed “passive waiting.” Normally we are doing things that keep us busy which makes the waiting go faster and we end up doing something productive. This is probably why the building industry has been so incredibly busy this year! We have time to think and we’ve run out of closets to clean so we think up other things to do—building or remodeling a home, moving, clearing a wooded lake lot, to name a few things our extended family has been doing!
Now as we enter the new church year, we find ourselves in the season of Advent—a time of waiting and preparing. We have cracked open the Gospel of Mark, a shorter gospel than the others, but one that is packed with meaning and incredible stories. It’s an intense gospel that quickly brings us into the story of our Savior in a way that resonates with people tired of waiting.
Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus. Luke begins by setting up a story and theme as he shares the message with someone named “Theophilus.”
Mark jumps right in. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” There. It’s all spelled out for us as we begin reading. For people dealing with ‘waiting fatigue’ this is good news!
It’s also the beginning. No more waiting. We hear from Mark the good news—that God has come! God has entered our world—our lives, our messy, broken, sinful, Covid-infested world.
We also learn that this is Good News. The word gospel literally means, “good news.” The story of Jesus coming to us in the gospels is the ‘good news’ we have been anxiously awaiting.
Many a Jew must’ve gazed up into the dark evening skies over Amsterdam and prayed, “Lord, come down to us. Lord, deliver us. You are our only hope.”
And that was what John the Baptist preached. God is coming. Today we remind ourselves and each other that God, is here! God came to us that first Christmas and has been with us since then.
The important news, the GOOD NEWS for us in this time and place is that God has come. God has entered into the everyday stuff of our lives—into the hospitals filled to the limit with Covid patients, with funeral homes dealing with the high volume of deaths, with schools, nursing homes, care facilities of all kinds trying to protect their vulnerable populations from a pandemic.
God has entered into the sin, the evil, the brokenness, the destructive ways that we as a people treat one another. God has given us hope for the future and a new identity as His very own children, saved and redeemed.
The difference in the preaching of John the Baptist and preachers now is that Jesus has come. The issue of ‘waiting’ is still with us, however. We know that the outcome of the world is securely in Jesus’ hands, and we do not need to fear the outcome. But the waiting period is the difficult part. We have been waiting for a long time. Yet, we know that Jesus can return at any given moment—whether to take us home individually, or collectively as a group of believers.
As Mark wrote in the first verse of his Gospel—this is the beginning of the good news. The end of the story has not been written yet, but we are now some 2,020 years into it. This is still the beginning. God comes, and we are living in the midst of the good news. Our hope lies in the promise that the One who came is the Son of God, the Holy One for whom we have been awaiting to bring us new life and a new home.
We know that the Coronavirus, or any of the sin and evil that exist in the world, are not the end of us. Through our baptisms we know we belong to God through the love and redeeming death of Jesus and we are forever saved. Because of Jesus we can wait in hope and with good courage because we have been a part of the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is our redeemer.