we've all heard the story before.

it started in sunday school, the setting, a manger in bethlehem, the characters included shepherds, angels, a young engaged couple, and the star of the show-- a baby.

when you hear a story as often as we have this one, being told and retold every year, it begins to lose its mystery, its power. at the story's onset, we know what is going to happen. we already know the ending.

also, since we hear the story told generally only at one time of the year, and ignored throughout the rest, it's easy to forget that it is not simply a short story in a large book. it is a small but important part of a larger story that encompasses generations. it's not the beginning, although it is the visible beginning of the fulfilment of a promise made when adam & eve first donned their leafy couture. and its not the end...we are still living out the story today.

the larger story, the history, is that the world that this baby was born into was a world waiting for hope. a nation whose disobedience to their God had cost them more than they could imagine. their only remaining hope echoed in promises and words that they hadn't heard in hundreds of years. four hundred years, to be exact. four hundred years of oppression, grief and strife. four hundred years of silence-- not one word from God.

these silent years had to have weighed heavily on the people of israel. Where are you, God? Have you forgotten us? Have you forgotten your promises? Have we gone too far? Is it too late?

this is where our Christmas story begins; with a people waiting. waiting for hope. waiting for oppression to end. waiting to see that they hadn't gone so far that God had given up on them. waiting for their king to arrive and save them.

what does this season find you waiting for? what is it that your heart is longing for? are you still waiting for a dream to be fulfilled? are you waiting for healing? a relationship to be restored? guidance for the future?

we are all waiting for something.

when you only read this small part of the larger story, it would be easy to overlook the fact that these people waiting for their king, didn't recognize him when he came. they were expecting something else. some kind of more immediate delivery from their waiting. and so with a few exceptions, they missed it.

God doesn't always show up or answer our waiting & hoping with what we want.

God knew that what was needed wasn't a great warrior king to obliterate enemies, but rather, humanity needed someone to walk with us, to be our friend, showing us how to live, how to deal with our problems, how to pray, how to love...basically how to live.

so today, this beginning of Advent, we again start in the middle of the story, and most people, on december 26 will stop in the middle of the story. but my prayer for us is that when we come out of this season, and head into the new year that awaits us, we will remember that our God is with us, and the God who came to earth as a baby, still comes to his people. And that even though our hopes and prayers may still remain unanswered, we would remember that the story is not finished... and although we don't see a star in the sky heralding the answer to our prayers, we believe that God is still at work in this world, and in our lives.

o come, o come Emmanuel...


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