Hope, peace, joy and love – promises of God that can become clouded by the circumstantial storms brewing in this world. Tucked away at the beginning of a familiar Christmas carol is a quiet little phrase that speaks volumes about the upside-down nature of belonging to Christ. It simply goes like this: “The weary world rejoices.” This song is most popular at the end of the year when the joyous event of Christmas is upon us and a new year beckons us just around the corner.
Advent – a season of waiting for the arrival. A time of unprecedented anticipatory joy in the Spirit. This joy should mark every spiritual step we take in preparation for what God has planned, for what He has promised. Yet, waiting for fulfillment of promises and for present circumstances to improve can be difficult. Waiting requires trust. It demands patience. It painfully sanctifies the soul that has found comfort in an instant results society, an on-demand culture. When you have had a year that felt like a decade or a season that cast shadows over the landscape of the future, waiting on God tests the roots of faith which keep His saints steady in the midst of the storm.
God promised the patriarch Abraham a son.
God declared, “Behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” (Gen 17:4, 6-7)
God’s promise was wrapped up in hope. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, believed, but after decades with no results, hope waned and they grew tired of waiting. Sarah’s weariness in the wait caused her to lose hope in the promise, to doubt her worth in God’s sight.
She said to her husband, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go into my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (Gen 16:2-3)
Abraham’s weariness in the wait made him forget to inquire of God, to pray before listening to the voice of his wife.
What are you waiting for? Does weariness cast doubts that cause you to lose confidence in accomplishing that which God has planned for you or those around you? Have the circumstances of this past year robbed you of hope?
Sometimes waiting can distort our expectations of God’s promises, undermining the joy of anticipation as clouds of weariness darken the light on the horizon. When Naaman, a Syrian commander, was inflicted with leprosy, he was told to seek out the prophet Elisha. He anticipated his healing with pompous expectations. As the story goes…
So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abanaand Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:9-14)
Are you prone to let your expectations interfere with your blessings when your soul has grown weary in waiting? How can you seek the restorative joy of anticipation when waiting has distorted your vision?
God’s chosen people had been waiting for the Messiah so long that when He came, they didn’t recognize Him. The people expected a warrior to vanquish Rome. Jesus came as a servant to destroy death. The people looked for a man of high social status and regal lineage. Jesus traded His heavenly throne for a feeding trough in a manger. The people doubted that Jesus came from God, choosing instead to believe that His mighty work was that of Satan. Jesus responded to their lack of peace…
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And He called them to Him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. (Mark 3:22-26)
Jesus taught them in parables, stories meant to invite them into the truth that the waiting was over, the Kingdom of God had arrived. Yet, they could not hear His voice because they were not listening. The weariness of the wait deafened them to the news that brought peace.
Jesus told His disciples, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
So how do we root our faith in the anticipatory joy of His return? How do we combat the weariness of the wait when the confines of time feel so restricting at our present position in history?
Are you waiting for a restoration of peace, of hope, of joy in the year ahead? This advent season, though the holidays can be demanding on our time, let us combat the weariness of waiting by rooting our faith in God’s Word every day. Let us remind ourselves that, in Christ, we are His ambassadors of hope to the weary world.
Are you longing to be re-invigorated with joy this season? When we set our personal desires upon the altar in prayer, seeking to serve rather than be served, He will reveal to us Kingdom needs. Let us remind ourselves that, in Christ, we are His servants in this weary world.
Do you need the peaceful restoration of fellowship with the Holy Spirit which connects you to God? Meditate on your expectations. Ask God to reveal to you the blind-spot of your personal desires that may be interfering with your ability to embrace the peace which God is giving you in order to sustain you in the wait.
Finally, when we worship Him daily, we realize that waiting is a blessed time of passive reflection, but it is also an opportunity for active rejoicing. When we are intentional about all that we have to be grateful for, our weary souls are buoyed with hope, joy, peace, and especially love. We can express that love through giving, not only material gifts for those in need, but gifts of time, gifts of talent, gifts of prayer over others. When we let God open our eyes to the Kingdom that is present within us by the indwelling Holy Spirit we are equipped to mark this world with the love of Jesus that combats all weariness.
Yes, He is returning and we wait in great anticipation of that Day. But, we rejoice because He has come, announcing the arrival of God’s Kingdom. Now, in this season, He is in you, in me, in those of us who claim to follow Christ. He makes His Name known and His presence felt as we remember who we are in Him and what He has done for us.
Jesus says to those who are waiting, “You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14) You are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Two weary travelers walked the road to Emmaus when someone appeared beside them. And He said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. (Luke 24:17)
For these weary travelers, their hopes had been dashed, their joy diffused by present circumstances and their peace thwarted by unmet expectations. In their weariness they could not recognize that Christ, their Savior, was walking right beside them. It wasn’t until they finally arrived at their destination and sat down to rest in the enjoyment of a meal when this ‘stranger’ broke the bread and lifted the clouds of weariness from their souls, restored their hope, energized them with joy and sent them as ambassadors of peace.
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:33-35)
At first, the weary travelers on the road to Emmaus ceased walking when their Lord joined them on the road amidst their sadness. May weariness not hinder us from continuing the journey the Lord has set each of us on. This advent season be the light of Christ amidst the darkness even if your sphere of influence has been reduced to a digital platform. Flavor the world with peace, joy and hope. Speak boldly and in love of the truth of salvation offered by the cross. Lead others into the anticipatory joy of waiting for that great Day, when Christ returns or He calls them home. This advent season, in the waiting become the ambassador that you were designed to be so that through the ministry appointed to you the King is beheld. It is only in Christ that this weary world rejoices.
Tucked into the fabric of a familiar Christmas Carol are powerful words that remind us of the greatest gift ever given, a precious treasure that God invites us all to re-gift this holiday season. Like the weary travelers on the road to Emmaus, we have a message to share with a world in need of restoration.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is Peace
When we open our mouth wide in rejoicing, the Lord is faithful to fill our souls. In His Word we find this promise: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
Merry Christmas to you who are chosen of the Lord.