Four hundred years was the echo of time between prophesy and that first advent.
Four hundred years of silence and waiting. And hope.
Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.
Bus stops, grocery lines, and on-hold music teach us to think of waiting as throwaway time, a way station between here and Where We Want To Be.
But in some sense, isn’t all of life a way station, this now-and-not-yet time between Christ’s resurrection and return? We pray and work toward on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven, trusting the Kingdom of God grows among us, but things aren’t right, not yet. Sin, death, and oppression abound. We worship things, objectify people, and pick each other’s wounds until they’re raw. Here isn’t Home, yet here we are, overwhelmed by longing for Eden’s shalom.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
It’s a troublesome tension: treading dark corners without despairing of them and holding onto hope though the waiting feels interminable.
I’ve played the waiting game. Looking for a job, waiting out a rough one. Trying to connect, to put down roots that take. Some days parenting is an exercise in being fully present, in not just waiting for second shift when Dad tags in, bedtime, or tomorrow’s new mercies, sweet Jesus, please.
I want to learn the discipline of waiting well. To not wish away this season for an imaginary ideal. I don’t want to despise the day of small things, missing today’s hallowed joys waiting numbly for tomorrow’s, real or fantasy.
Narrow expectations prepare us only for disappointment, and they’re the opposite of the kind of expectancy advent calls us to. Advent’s hope isn’t a perfect, selfish fantasy. Our hope is a Savior who bends low and pours himself out.
Waiting well prepares our hearts to love like that.
I wonder sometimes about the landscape of faith between testaments, during those four hundred years of scriptural silence. The Bible is mum, but surely God moved. His prophets kept no records, but wasn’t every common bush afire with God? Did the hills burst into song and the trees of the field clap their hands?
Even now, spring lies waiting beneath winter’s dormancy.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Can I trust God at work beyond all that I see, hear, and touch? Can I glimpse glory amidst the mundane?
Anna waits, her husband dead fifty years and without any man as her surety. Even in those barren years, the faithful kept watch. She worships and wonders, and she prophesies. God’s Word was never silent for those with ears to hear.
She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Word enfleshed poured out his Spirit, bidding Anna to speak as the prophets of old. Steadfast Anna, mouthpiece for God’s good work. Let lonesome exiles rejoice: Emmanuel has come.
They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
Blessed are they who wait and mourn and the expectant ones who hope.