Recently the Lord spoke to me and said, “You know, it’s interesting how easy it is for you to make the world revolve around you.” And this is all of our condition, obviously. It’s the human condition to want to turn the world into a story that revolves around ourselves. Then God reminded me that Advent can be like this too as we can want this season to be about us. And as I was trying to figure out what God was saying to me, He nudged my heart and in the middle of all this said, “Advent has always been about people waiting for Me.” Of course, that’s what Advent is. We’re waiting for God in expectation that He is going to come through and do what only He can do. And God gently let me know that while all of this is true, it works both ways. He said, “I’m also waiting here for you.”
And I said, “God, I do want to believe in this season that you’re the only one who can come through for me.” But I also want to understand today that it might be the God of the ages is actually the one doing the waiting today for a lot of us. And He’s waiting where He is right now for you and me to wake up, open our eyes, turn away from whatever it is that we thought was going to be our thing, and find the one we were created by and for. It may be that you’re waiting here for God, but I guarantee you that God is waiting here in this Advent journey for you.
I went to meet a guy for lunch and arrived a few minutes early, which is a small miracle for me. The hostess seated me before my friend arrived and as it hit the time we planned to meet, he still wasn’t there. So, I let about 15 minutes go by before texting him, “I’m here.” Immediately, I received a reply stating, “me too.” Long story short, there are two of the same restaurants in Atlanta, and I went to one while my friend went to the other. It turns out he’d gotten there early as well and we’d both been sitting in different restaurants for 15 minutes waiting for each other. It’s true that every one of us is waiting for God to show up in some way; to come through for us. But it’s equally true today that God is waiting for you to show up and step into all that he’s promised for your life.
I want to highlight an unusual character from the Christmas story. We find him in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter one. This is one of those sections of Scripture that many people pass over. But when Matthew wrote this gospel, he had a certain audience in mind and for his audience with a Jewish mindset, he needed a way to connect the story of the Messiah to the promise of the Father of their faith. He knew the best way to do that was to put the genealogy of Jesus upfront so people could see the connection between Abraham and Emmanuel. So, he gives us three groupings of 14 genealogy segments and condenses them so that we don’t have to go back through Chronicles chapter by chapter digging up the genealogy ourselves. It begins with names we all probably remember. Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, basically the all-stars in the Jewish history books. But then he gets to the birth of the Savior and some names show up that we’re not as familiar with. Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob.
“And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” (Matthew 1:16)
Notice how he’s specific in that Joseph was Mary’s husband, not Jesus’ father. Joseph is the last one in a long genealogy of the promise which God had originally set in motion through Abraham. And here we are coming down through the ages and Joseph finally shows up for the birth of Jesus. In other words, God was waiting for Joseph the whole time. In the same way, God is waiting for you today.
Let’s look at a few key moments from the story of Jesus. The shepherds were the first to arrive at the manger, but Jesus was already waiting for them in the manger. Mary was the first to the empty tomb, but Jesus was already out of the empty tomb waiting for Mary to arrive when the sun came up in the garden. After the resurrection, some of the disciples went back to their old way of life. And after a long and frustrating night of fishing where they caught nothing, when the sun rose, Jesus was already waiting for them on the beach. A woman who had a five time strike out at marriage left home and found Jesus waiting for her at the well to speak to her the words that would change her life.
And He’s waiting for you right now. What is He waiting to show to you? Well, let’s break these stories down to find out. The shepherds will always be known as the first ones at the manger. They believed what the angel said was true and would come to pass. So, they entered Bethlehem to find baby Jesus. They stepped out in faith and expectation, and He was waiting there for them. In that, God is trying to tell us, “I am here.”
We get caught up with “there.” Believing we’re behind or will never reach “there.” But God is saying that the miracle of Christmas and Advent is that He’s actually here. Freedom is going to come to our lives, not when we’re hoping God will be “there,” but when we realize the God of the Heavens is here. If He’s here, in the wins and the losses, the joy and the sorrow, then I can get to all the places I’m worried about going in life knowing he’ll be with me the whole time. What the enemy is doing to a lot of us is robbing us of the miracle of the presence of God in the moment by making us wonder if God is going to come through for us in the moment ahead. But the miracle is God saying, “I’m here.” At the garden tomb, He’s telling us, “I am able.” He’s here and He’s able. So, we start this genealogy with Abraham. But we end it with Emmanuel, which means… God is with us.
It’s common to read through the genealogy of Jesus and want it to speed up and get to the birth of Jesus. But a Jewish mindset absorbing this genealogy would see all the little twists and turns that Matthew has included to allow them to see the richness of the Gospel story. For example, in the first group we see, Abraham was the father of Isaac. It’s mentioned that Jacob was the father of Judah, and his brothers. So, why did he mention the brothers? Because as we know it, his brothers almost derailed the entire story. His brothers threw Joseph in a pit and sold him to slavery. But God eventually raises Joseph up to make him second in command in the most powerful nation on Earth at the time. Joseph prepares the nation for a famine which draws his family to Egypt for food. He is then able to provide a future for his own family, who is the hope of the world. At the end of Jacob’s life, he speaks over each of his sons. When he gets to Judah, the fourth born, he says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). In other words, he says that the promise of Abraham would come through Judah. That’s only possible because God is able. He took what looked like would destroy the promise and used it to preserve the promise. That’s the message of advent.
Now, let’s look at another part of the story. After the resurrection, Peter and a few of the disciples knew Jesus was alive. But, unaware of how things would unfold, they went back to their old life as fishermen in Galilee. After fishing all night and not catching a thing, they looked up at the beach and Jesus was already on the shore with a fire going. He commands them to throw the net on the opposite side and they catch 153 fish in one cast. Peter jumped off the boat and swam to shore, where Jesus was waiting for him.
Peter was probably unsure of how that interaction would go because he’d failed miserably in a crucial moment. And maybe that’s you. Maybe you are actually dreading the fact that God is waiting for you. When I was growing up, I knew exactly where my dad would be waiting for me when I came home late. So, I mastered the art of turning the doorknob on our front door like a pro. And if I was lucky, my dad would have already fallen asleep and I was off the hook. But more often than not there were times when my dad hadn’t fallen asleep. Those short conversations usually resulted in me getting grounded and my car keys being taken. That’s a small scale, but put that scenario on the greater scale of the Creator of the Universe, and it’s suddenly a lot more intimidating. I wonder if there’s anyone reading this wishing God wasn’t waiting for them.
Well, the message in Peter’s story is this: God forgives you. And the God waiting for you today has the same message. It’s not that there are no consequences for our decisions. It’s simply God saying, “I forgive you.” So, Jesus asks Peter when he reaches the shore, “Peter, do you love me?” to which Peter replies with a “Yes.” Jesus then tells him to feed His sheep and fulfill the calling He had on Peter’s life. Jesus assured Peter that He still had a purpose for his life.
I don’t want to just glaze over the failure of men in this moment. I want to highlighting the saving power of almighty God. Right in the middle of all these stories are people who took wrong turns and blew things up. Yet, God sustained through the story His purpose and plan to bring a Savior into the world. Some of you are thinking you’ve blown your chance with God. But I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is still an opportunity for you to be used in the story of God.
I want to close with the story about the woman at the well, who I think we can all relate to. In one way or another we are all searching for something to fulfill our hearts. What is that one thing for you? This woman happened to believe it would be a relationship, which led to guy after guy. That day at the well, she’d come looking for what she physically needed, but instead found what she spiritually needed. Jesus took a circuitous detour that no Jew would make, so that He could be waiting for her. Jesus’ message to the woman is, I can give you more, and I am what you’re looking for.
We started with father Abraham. The last person in the genealogy before Jesus is born is Joseph. The name of Joseph means, “he will add.” Jesus didn’t come to take from us. He came to add to us. I believe God is going to use this message to show some of you that you need Jesus, the One who saves us from our sins. You might be like Peter and think it’d be easier to go back to your old life than to hang in there with God in a season of waiting. Some of you just need to turn around and see that Jesus is right in front of you. He’s saying, “I am who you’re looking for.”
What are you waiting for?