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For You we wait and watch and pray; oh come Lord Jesus come…

This line is from a song I heard when I was young that I think of every Christmas. Growing up in the Catholic church, I always looked forward to celebrating advent; lighting a new candle each Sunday leading up to the final one and saying the appropriate prayer for that particular week. As a family we would talk about the anticipation of Jesus coming to save the world as a tiny little baby in a manger. Equally, if not slightly more exciting, was the great expectation for the coming of the fictitious bearded man in the red suit who would carefully place the gifts we had hoped for under our Christmas tree. Somehow these two stories managed to coincide just fine in my small mind. Christmas was both magical and holy.

We read the Christmas story and try to imagine what it must have felt like so long ago to be waiting for a savior; the one, who it was told, would come to save the world. But we don’t really have to imagine the anticipation as we are in the waiting right now. We eagerly wait for Jesus’ return, to save us from this world and take us to be with Him for eternity.

I remember putting our little ones to bed on Christmas Eve and being overjoyed at the excitement on their faces. They knew that the morning would bring joy and surprises. Many times they would talk of going to sleep just as fast as they could so time would go quickly and morning would come. Every door had been ripped off the advent calendar, every chocolate eaten.

A kid only has to wait twenty-four days (or 365 depending on how you look at it) building up to the joy and fulfillment that Christmas morning brings. But how do we wait in eager anticipation for Jesus’ return when our wait is much longer than an advent calendar?

Waiting is hard. Waiting for something so spectacular as meeting our creator face to face, ending any pain or sorrow that we feel here and now, is beyond difficult at times. We long for something better than the suffering that takes place on this earth.

How do we manage? I think we live our lives with a sense of expectancy, all the while staying busy with what Jesus commanded us to do; loving Him with all our heart, soul and mind and loving our neighbors as ourselves. If we sit still closing our eyes and plugging our ears to the chaos around us, just praying for Jesus to come back now, we miss many chances to love, to give, to listen, to pray, to hope.

I love the verses in Matthew 25 when Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” This is how we spend our time waiting with hope. We keep our eyes open for those in need of the greatest love and then we love and give and pray, even when we don’t want to. We serve others because in doing so we are serving Jesus.

This is what I want to be busy with in the waiting.  In the book of Luke we are told to be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect. I want to spend my time doing things that are important to Jesus, not sitting around complaining about the state of this world and counting the minutes until His return. 

I recently heard a pastor define hope as confident expectation. I think this is a perfect description of how we live in a world full of darkness and sometimes despair. We have hope, not only in Jesus coming again, but hope in how He wants to work in us and through us right here and right now.