I remember very specifically – my grandma had sent a large gift in the mail and placed it under the tree. It was huge! It took up about 1/6th of the space under the plastic evergreen. And Grandma sent it early--about two weeks before Christmas. Every day it stared at me. It taunted me. It stuck it’s tongue out at me and said, “Nanana boo boo, you can’t open me yet.”
One day, I had my chance. Mom had to run to the store for a moment and I was going to be home alone for 15 minutes. I acted nonchalant, “See ya later,” and waited until I heard the car pull out of the driveway, and immediately ran over to the tree. I took my finger nail. I aimed for the back of the present. I figured if I just opened a finger nail’s worth of wrapping paper – no one would know I looked and I would know what it was.
Carefully. Surgically. Slowly. I slit and I saw: Brown. The brown of a big cardboard box. No words. No clue. Nothing.
I pulled a bit more. Still no clues. Still nothing.
I kept pulling until I could read a word or two: “Nutrition facts: Hydrogenated oil.” UGH! I was foiled by a present inside a box that wasn’t from the original present!
And I tried to put the wrapping paper back, but by now the mark was too big. Too huge. The best I could do was turn the present upside down, hope no one noticed it, and blame my dog if they did!
Patience…It’s hard. It’s really hard at Christmas. Waiting for presents. Waiting in line. Waiting in parking lots. Waiting for Christmas break. It’s hard to wait for Christmas, to the point that impatience, frustration, and anxiety become the main themes of the season.
Today we are going to continue our series called Old Fashioned Christmas. We will look at how people remained patient before the very first Christmas ever arrived. Something they waited for longer than a month – longer than a year – but thousands of years for! (Can you imagine waiting that long for a gift?)
Today’s goal is to: (1) Understand why Old Testament Israelites were willing to wait so patiently for so long for the first Christmas (2) grab some of their patience and use it as we await Christmas – and better yet -- the return of our Savior. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Old Testament Patience
Our lesson this morning comes from the Psalms. The book of Psalms is a collection of poetry and songs that marvelously declare the praises of God in rhythm and rhyme. Because of that some of the most well-known Bible passages come from the Psalms: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23) or “God is our Refuge and strength and every present help in trouble. (Psalm 46)
The particular Psalm we want to look at is numbered 130. It is an authorless Psalm. Not that no one wrote it, but that the author is unknown. It doesn’t tell us who wrote it.
It think that’s neat. Because it helps us to understand and attribute the feelings of the Psalm to common, everyday Israelites. Kinda like me – a common, everyday, Raleigh-an.
Look at the problem the author is having: 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy…with you there is forgiveness.
Again -- the specifics of the author’s problem isn’t mentioned. But it’s bad enough to be described as “the depths.”
Think of the bottom of a well. Dark. Musty air. Hard to breath. Scary.
But the author isn’t referring to physical depths. He talked about forgiveness which is a very spiritual concept. The author was dealing with guilt. The author was dealing with the consequences of sin. The author was dealing with the loneliness of separation from God.
Have you ever been in spiritual depths?
Of course, not, Pastor! I’m fine. It’s Christmas. I’m feeling holly, jolly, decking the halls with Falalalas and having a Merry Christmas.
But if we’re honest, spiritual lows are more common around Christmas than you think:
• Finances are challenging – and hopefully I can get a Dollar Tree gift or two for our kids. They wouldn’t be challenging, if I hadn’t have made so many mistakes.
• I won’t be getting a Christmas card from that person on Facebook – I said what I shouldn’t have said. No amount of merry or eggnog can fix it.
• I’ll be alone this Christmas. My family? They don’t want to see me. I’ve done too much wrong to each of them.
• I can’t listen to that song on the radio! The merry and happy that I hear – just isn’t how I feel and I feel even worse when I realize that I don’t feel that way either.
• Hospital rooms aren’t very exciting. All I want for Christmas is a CANCER FREE diagnosis.
The reality behind Christmas is that we’re still sinners. We still have guilt. We still have spiritual lows because of that guilt. Maybe that’s by we love Christmas. Maybe we love the happy singing, happy gifts, and happy drinks because they take our minds off of the spiritual depths for just a second. We feel happy for just a second. We feel ok for just a second. We’ll hear someone say, “You are kind. You are so nice…” as opposed to the inner voice that says, “You’re a bad mom – a no good father – a good for nothing friend.”
Christmas cheer can erase that!...
…Until December 26th. Then, we realize it’s all still there.
Your financially poor decisions are still a part of your credit report.
That person on Facebook still won’t talk to you.
Your family that was angry with you is still angry with you.
And your sins against God are still written down.
In fact, look at what the Psalmist writes about God – If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? (130:3) There’s a similar thought in a cute, kids’ Santa Claus song. "He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice.” That means his list says your name. It says naughty or nice. It determines whether you get coal or a new, metallic Slinky.
God’s list is much different.
God’s list has your name – and every last sin that you ever did written underneath it in 12 point Times New Heaven font!
God’s list doesn’t miss anything.
8:23am Pulled into parking lot and swore at the car who took your spot.
8:25am Refused to hold door for fellow employee because “I just don’t like him that much.”
8:26am Looked down that woman’s shirt who stood on the elevator in front of me.
8:26am and 32 seconds Checked out her rear as she left the elevator.
8:27am Ignored the “hello” of that one guy at work, because he didn’t say hi to me yesterday.
8:31am Told a lie about the boss’ love life because it’s fun to bring him down a notch or two.
8:34am Logged onto Facebook because I don’t feel like working.
8:39am Typed an angry political comment into a blog and called someone a bunch of names, because they are those bunch of names.
8:41am Typed a vulgar reply to a person who typed a vulgar reply to my political comment.
8:43am Typed an even more vulgar reply to a person who typed an even more vulgar reply to my political comment.
8:47am Saw Bible passage – scrolled through it quickly. Tried not to think about God.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand?
None of could stand.
All of us would be convicted.
No amount of garland...
No amount of gingerbread cookies.
No number of Elf on the Shelf positions could save us.
4 But, with you, O Lord, is forgiveness.
Do you get it? This is why the Psalmist was waiting on God. This is why the Psalmist was waiting on his promise of the Savior. Because there was no one else and nothing else that could fix that problem.
No one else that could fix sin.
No one else that could remove guilt.
No one else that could say, “You’re forgiven” and have that last eternally!
Hence the author waited.
Hence the Old Testament people waited.
And for a long time!
The timeline of the Savior starts with a guy named Abraham. God shows up and tells Abraham that he will one day send a Savior through his family. Abraham waits. Abraham grows old. Before Abraham dies, he passes that on to his son Isaac. God tells Isaac the same thing. One day the Savior will come through his family. Isaac waits. Isaac grows old. Before Isaac dies, he passes it on his to his son Jacob. And it’s the same thing with Jacob to his son….and his son to his son…and so on and so on and so on and so on. For close to 8000 years.
That’s a long time.
That’s a lot of waiting.
That’s a lot of patience.
And during that time Israel could have stopped hoping. And many of them did. The Old Testament talks all about that. Some started worship statues. Some started worshipping artistic poles. Some stopped thinking about God and worried more about the bank.
In essence, some stopped waiting for God.
But some waited.
From generation, to generation, to generation, they waited.
Until one night in Bethlehem…
Until a great, great, great, many times over grandson named Joseph had a son.
Until a Savior was born. Christ, the Lord.” (Lk. 2)
II. New Testament, You, Patience
But it’s hard to wait like the Psalmist. It’s hard to wait for God.
Story of not waiting for God.
God is worth waiting for.
Why? Look at verse 7. With the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. There’s three key reasons to wait for God contained within that very verse.
(1) His Unfailing Love
If you put up Christmas lights, you know all too well that they can fail…easily. Usually it’s after you’ve tested them out, checked out every light, turned each one to make sure they are inserted correctly, strung them up on the outside of the house, and plugged it in...for about five seconds of oohs and ahs before bzzt!!! The lights go out and you gotta start all over.
God’s love is not like that. God’s love doesn’t bzzt! and shut off. God’s love is constant. His promise of forgiveness is constant. His eternal promise of heaven is constant.
With the Lord is unfailing love. (v.7a) His unfailing love is worth waiting for.
(2) Full Redemption
That’s a bit different from the majority of holiday sales. Sometimes they are too good to be true. You’ll be walking in the mall and a big sign 90% off! catches your eye. Who doesn’t stop for that sale? That’s $10 for a $100 item.
Then, you get inside. And…
The sale items are the ones with the yellow dot.
The items with the yellow dot are on the back-clearance rack.
The items on the back-clearance rack are nothing else than a few pairs of extra small slacks and a bright pink necktie that clashes with just about every shirt you own.
God’s redemption is not like that. God’s redemption is not just for the sins that are small OR the sins that no one thinks that much about in the back corner. God’s redemption found in Jesus is for all sins. It’s for every bit of every one of your sins.
It’s a complete payment. With him is full redemption. (v.7b)
A payment worth waiting for.
(3) He Himself
And it comes from God himself.
That’s what my mom always told me about a certain someone at Christmas. He had elves that worked for him. At the mall, he wasn’t even there himself. That’s too tough to get one on one time with him! Besides – how would these helpers ever get the message about my Red Ryder BB Gun to the big red guy in the first place?
But God is the one who personally came for your salvation.
He didn’t send a helper.
He didn’t send an angel.
He came himself.
That’s what the angel means when he says, “This is your Savior, Christ the Lord.” He means this is your Savior – God himself!
It means, God’s perfect, incredible, never failing, full redemption giving hands, took care of your salvation.
That’s a guy worth waiting for. That’s a God worth waiting for.
That’s why the Psalmist was so excited. He wrote, 5 I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his Word I put my hope. 6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Have any of you ever worked at night? Back then, there weren’t clocks, so the only way you knew that your job was almost over was the amount of darkness in the sky.
1:30 am. Still dark.
3:00 am. Darker still.
But come 4:45 am. It’s a dark grey.
5:15 am you can see your hand in front of your face.
6am, you start to get excited. You start to walk back to the office. There’s a beat to your step, because soon you look and...the sun peeks over the horizon. The day is here.
Wait for God like that.
With joy…because one day in this dark, sad, sin filled world, you’ll wake up. You’ll look at the horizon. The Son will come.
It will be morning.
Out of the dark depths of sin, guilt and shame.
Into the light of forgiveness, joy and God’s love.
It’s worth waiting for God. Amen.