And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.
Waiting. It seems like this world is filled with waiting. From waiting in grocery store lines or traffic to waiting for prayers to be answered and dreams to be fulfilled, there is waiting all around. Waiting falls on a spectrum ranging from a minor to inconvenience to a major ordeal that causes turmoil in our souls. That kind of waiting feels heavy and wearisome. Waiting for God to open doors or for prayers to be answered can be a major testing of the faith and difficult journey to take. As a counselor, I have the privilege of walking with people through the darkness and difficulties that this broken world brings about, and because of that, I am all too familiar with the heaviness that settles in my office as clients work through their own seasons of waiting. Waiting is not easy, and if you are anything like me, waiting often feels anything but peaceful.
The waiting for the Messiah was over. A child had been born, and he would bring peace to the world.
You may be wondering why I chose to start with the passage from Luke 2. After the Fall, the world was subjected to a period of waiting—waiting for God’s plan of redemption promised in Genesis 3 to come to fruition. It took many years, and the people often grew weary of their waiting. (Doesn’t sound much different from us, right?) They longed for the Messiah who had been promised to them and who would be able to crush the head of the serpent. On that dark night, the angels appear to lowly shepherds to announce that the plan of redemption has been set in motion. The waiting for the Messiah was over, and the world could now rejoice! The news that the angels proclaim is good news! A child had been born, and he would bring peace to the world.
Perhaps that is why I have long loved the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds on that night so long ago. Their message is one that my soul needs to hear. Waiting is uncomfortable, but when I look at those difficult seasons through the lens of God’s glorious faithfulness, the context changes a bit. Instead of feeling downcast and discouraged, a thrill of hope runs through me. The angels announce a joyous message of hope that is wrapped in peace. They proclaim a message of hope for weary souls, peace for anxious hearts, and joy for discouraged spirits. Just like the sky lit up above Bethlehem that night, so the birth of Christ shines light into our darkness. A world that was weary from waiting could now rejoice. Immanuel—God with us—had come. This is good news, indeed.
The Advent season is now upon us. It is a season marked by waiting. Yes, waiting for Christmas but waiting for so much more. We celebrate the birth of Christ but also eagerly anticipate the second coming of Christ where all things will be made new –where there will be no more pain, anxiety, sadness, or tears. This waiting is filled with expectation and hope. There are days I leave my counseling office longing for the day when people will not have to struggle anymore. Because God is faithful to fulfill all of His promises, we know that the waiting is not in vain and that the hope of a new creation is sure. Yes, we will continue to struggle to find peace here on this earth because the world has not been perfected yet. Our hearts might still be filled with worry. We might wrestle with fear and sadness, but hope was born that night long ago, and because of that, we know that our waiting has a purpose. The angels give a message of hope. They proclaim that peace has come and just like those shepherds, I hope it is one that resonates in your soul.
Is your Christmas season filled with anxiety or sadness? Is your December calendar filling quickly and causing your stress to compound? Are you wondering how in the world you will ever be able to afford all of those gifts you have to purchase? Is your season of waiting leaving you discouraged or overwhelmed? I hope you take a moment to pause and let the words of the angels sink in. I pray you find that your heart, though weary, can rejoice. For many, this season of “joy” feels anything but joyful. But take heart! The message of the angels still rings loud and clear today. They bring a message that is not just for the rich, the noble, or the worthy. They announce good news of great joy that is for all people. The Son of God took on flesh and was born in a manger. He lived a perfect life, died an innocent death, and rose again from the grave so that sin and death might be conquered and sinners might be reconciled to God.
A thrill of hope, the weary, waiting world rejoices. Come, Lord Jesus!