On Waiting: When You Don't Get What You're Waiting For

We usually talk about Jesus’ birth in the most neat and tidy and sterile way. One minute Mary is pregnant and the next she is holding a clean, swaddled little baby, sound asleep and sucking on a pacifier. When we skip over the actual birth part, we end up missing the most important piece of the Christmas story.

Sarah Bessey writes in her book, Jesus Feminist: 

“We keep it quiet, the mess of the incarnation - particularly at Christmas - because it’s just not church enough, and many don’t quite understand. It’s personal, private and there just aren’t words for it - and it’s a bit too much. It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, or sorrow, too much love, and far too messy with too little control.”

You don’t have to have given birth to know it’s messy. And difficult. And incredibly painful. It is absolutely the most beautiful thing, but in its very own and unique way. It’s the way that every single one of us have entered the world. Every. Single. One. Every one of us! We took our first breath at the expense of another woman’s pain and agony and time and sacrifice. 

We were born at home or in a hospital, in a birth center or in the car on the way. We were born naturally or through cesarian with pain medicines or without. Nonetheless, we were all born. That’s how we got here.

And this is the way God chose to enter our world. He could have come any way he pleased. But he chose to enter the world through birth. God chose to enter the world through birth. God put on skin to enter our dark world in the same way that every one of us have entered the world, so that the world might be saved. redeemed. healed.

So that we would have hope. A promise to cling to while we wait.

It’s a promise that God is doing something new. Something that disrupts our theology and our religion and our ideas. A promise that is better than the the things we could dream up on our own. It’s a promise that nurtures us, and feeds us, and enables us.* It’s a promise that changes the way we wait. It’s a promise that a seed has been planted right where we are. The ground we are standing on is fertile. The light is overpowering the darkness.

The book of Matthew begins with an angel announcing to Joseph that Mary would bear a son, and his name would be Immanuel, God with us. The book of Matthew concludes with Jesus saying, “Behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”

God put on skin and entered our world not in a neat and orderly way in a sterile hospital room. Not magically materializing out of thin air into the arms of a woman. He came through our very human process, and through this we have the incarnation. Immanuel. God with us. God came to show us what it means to be human. To show us that there is nothing too messy or too broken or too dark that he won’t enter into, in order to set us free.

We’re all waiting for something right now.

Maybe you’ve been waiting for something for a really long time.

Maybe you waited for something that never came to be.

Maybe you waited for something and you were disappointed when it came to be.

Hear this. What you’re ultimately waiting for is God’s promise to make all things right. To bring restoration, to bring healing, to save us from sin, death and evil. To eclipse the darkness. You’re waiting for God’s kingdom to reign in it’s entirety. That’s really what you’re waiting for. That’s what you’re longing for.

And I have good news for you! God has entered our world, he is immanuel, God with us. He is with us until the very end of the age. A promise has been planted and it’s started to spring up right where we stand. 

You may be waiting for God, but God is waiting for you.


This has been adapted from a sermon I preached. Listen to more sermons here. I've also written more about waiting here and here.

*Henri Nouwen talks about waiting and how we've been given a promise that nurtures us, feeds us and enables us in The Path of Waiting.