Wait - Jon Fryer
Waiting is often the hardest action to take. And yet it is often the thing that God calls us to do. Waiting requires us to trust Him. It requires us to believe that He is in control, that His timing is perfect and part of His plan. It requires us to recognise that we can do nothing without Him, and that we must wait for Him to act and then join in with His work, lest all our striving turn to nothing – I only do what I see My Father already doing said Jesus. It humbles us to realise that God doesn’t need our good works or plans or labour, and that He only lets us join in because He likes to share – we can do nothing for God, only with God.
In the Christmas story Mary was waiting. She was waiting for Joseph to marry her. She was waiting for him to finish work on the extension to his family home that would become theirs, as was the tradition of the day. She was waiting for him to come to her on the day of her wedding and say ‘Come! In my father’s house there are many rooms. See! I have prepared a place for you!’. (and if you didn’t know what Jesus was saying when he said that, he was quoting the wedding service of the day – the language of the bridegroom to the bride that his disciples would have recognised instantly…). Mary was waiting to begin her married life with a husband, children, a home. She had it all planned out. And then something interrupted her waiting. An angel appeared. An angel with a disturbing request from God. A request that said ‘Put it all at risk for me. Disrupt your plans. Forget all that you have waited for and serve me’. And then Mary began an even longer wait. Ten months for her baby to be born. Thirty three years before he would be taken from her… always wondering, what if this is the day I lose him? Always waiting for that day, since it had been prophesied to her that it would be so. What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for your own plans and schemes to bear fruit? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but if God decides to interrupt your planning, are you willing to listen? Would you even see the angel? Could you say ‘Behold the servant of the Lord’ and then forget your own plans, let all of your labour and patient waiting come to nothing if necessary? What if God asked you to not just give up your plans but to accept and wait for personal humiliation, loss and tragedy that would bring great good to others? Could you? Would you?
Someone else’s waiting also got an unexpected interruption. Joseph was waiting for his virgin bride. He was waiting for his wedding day when she would join him in the home he had built for her. He was waiting for sons and daughters, an heir to inherit his name and his business. And then he gets some news. Apparently she’s not what he was waiting for. She will not be his wife and mother to his heir. The waiting has been for nothing. Being a good man he was mindful to put her away quietly and move on… but God will not even allow this. Another angel. Another set of instructions. You will take her to be your wife, but your heir will not be your own. Your peaceful, ordered life will be disrupted in ways you can’t even begin to understand. Your good name will be sullied. Your marriage will be questioned by the village gossips forever. You will lose your home and flee as refugees to Egypt. Was this what Joseph was waiting for? I don’t think so… and yet Jesus got the best foster dad that God could arrange, ‘cos Joseph just sucks it all up and gets on with it. What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for everything to just turn out ok, everything to end up just how you planned? If God came and said ‘Its not going to be like that. I need you to take on responsibilities that are not yours. I need you to love when you have no reason to. I need you to be strong for someone else when everything in your world is falling apart’, then could you? Would you?
On a hillside one clear and frosty night others were also waiting. A bunch of shepherds were waiting for morning under stars very much like these. They were waiting for another days hard labour. They were waiting for the sun to bring back a little bit of warmth to their mountainside. They were waiting for another day of work, and another day of work, and another day of work, hard graft until the day they died. No day of for them, ‘cos their job made them unclean and unable to take part in the temple worship. They were waiting for more of the same, never changing, day after day, month after month, year after year. And then something interrupted their waiting. Angels from the realms of glory thronged the sky above the earth. Angels with an invitation from God. An invitation that said ‘Welcome to the party! Come and worship.’ An invitation to see something new, and holy, and out of this world, and special, and just for them. An invitation that might redeem and transform their waiting into something…different. What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for the same old, same old, day in, day out? What if God was to do something new? Would you notice? Would you care? Would you even want Him to? If God invited you to a party, would you go?
Talking of stars, others were waiting. In the East, men were watching the stars as they had done for years, waiting for a message. And then, after many lifetimes, it came. A new star shines in the West. The King is born. The wait is over. And so they load up their goods and their chattels and their camels and their servants and they relocate. They travel halfway around the world to a stable, to worship at the feet of an infant. And then they go home. What are you waiting for? A sign from God? A miracle? A star? If you got one, would you follow? What if it led you somewhere unexpectedly dark and unpleasant, like a mouldy old stable? It’s a dangerous business asking for signs… and afterwards, could you just go home? Wouldn’t it change you? Could you go back to everyday life knowing that you had seen something out of this world. What would you do next if the waiting was over? What would you spend your life on?
In the temple, others were waiting. Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the holy spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Anna had been waiting for eighty four years as a widow, watching and waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Both recognised the Lord when he was but seven days old. They knew what they were waiting for, and waited in faithful expectation. They saw clearly what God was doing. What are you waiting for? The promises of the Lord are sure and true. Are you hanging on to them, even for eighty four years? Will you see clearly when they are fulfilled, or will your sight have been deadened by distractions, because waiting can be a tedious business... I’ll ask again, what are you waiting for? You may feel that there is nothing left for God to do, that He hasn’t promised anything, that you have nothing to wait for – and this can happen to young and old – that there is nothing left and you are only waiting to die. Well, here’s a secret. God has plans for your life, says the Good Book, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. And if you are still breathing, He still has work for you to do, promises for you to see fulfilled, miracles and signs and wonders for you to wait for. When there is nothing left to wait for you’ll know about it ‘cos you’ll be standing before the great white throne in heaven! And how are you waiting? Are you waiting with faithful expectation, or have you given in to a cynical kind of time-passing? Anna never left the temple but worshipped day and night, fasting and praying – that’s how we wait, and they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they rise up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint, and when all that is done, and only when it is done, they will go to their rest in peace, their waiting completed, their work done and safe in the shadow of the Shaddai.
You see others were waiting too, but they did not understand. They looked to the promises, and waited, but they got distracted, they weren’t ready to make sacrifices, didn’t want to be disrupted, they didn’t understand what they were waiting for, they didn’t really want to see an end to the waiting, and they definitely weren’t ready for God to do something new. And so the Pharisees missed the end of the waiting completely, and are waiting still. God has been and gone, and they are still waiting for something that isn’t ever going to happen. There’s a word for what happens to people who get so caught up in waiting that they miss the finale – nothing. Nothing ever happens to them again. They wait and wait and wait, and nothing. That’s so terribly sad. Jesus said: "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away. What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for Him to come back? If so, how then should we live? Are you waiting to be taken to join him? If so, how should you spend the time as you wait? Are you waiting for a sign? Do you need one, or has God already told you what you must do? Should you be waiting for a sign, or are you rushing in where even angels should fear to tread? Are your plans your own, or Gods? What are you waiting for? What if He interrupts? What if He doesn’t? What if God does something new? What if He invited you to join in? What are you waiting for?
This night is the long night
when those who listen wait for His cry.
This night is the eve of the great nativity
when those who are longing wait for His appearing.
Wait, with watchful heart.
Listen carefully, through the stillness;
listen, hear the telling of the waves upon the shore.
Listen, hear the song of the angels glorious -
before long it will be heard
that His foot has reached the earth:
news - that the glory is come!
Truly His salvation is near
for those who fear Him,
and His glory shall dwell in our land.
Watch and pray, the Lord shall come.
Those who are longing wait for His appearing.
Those who listen wait for His cry.
This night is the long night.
What was Jesus like?
The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed