No one likes to wait. Sure, we can talk about the “excitement of anticipation,” but let’s face it, we want what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. And we want it now!
Impatience can be hard. You’ll witness it this year at Christmas. In the lines at the stores, in the lines at restaurants, in parking lots and on the streets with impatient drivers, and even in children as they “can’t wait” to open their presents.
Most everyone agrees on impatience. Why else would we have instant messaging, express lanes, Instant Pots, microwaves, and fast food? Because we seem to be hopelessly impatient.
There is a story leading up to that first Christmas that doesn’t get a lot of press, but it’s a lesson in patience… and trust.
It’s a story about two of Jesus’ relatives. Their names were Elizabeth and Zechariah. Zechariah served in the temple. Elizabeth was barren – they had no children. And now, both were old – well beyond child-bearing years.
Their waiting had turned into an unwanted reality.
But that’s not the end of the story. Just like with Mary and Joseph, while Zechariah was working in the temple, he was visited by an angel, Gabriel, who told him that his prayers had been answered, and that his wife would conceive a son.
This is how it happened:
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
Could it be? After all the prayers? After all the tears? After all the grief?
And what was Elizabeth’s response? It contains part of the lesson for us.
“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
So, what can we impatient people learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth?
Maybe it’s this: keep hope alive.
No doubt about it. It was a lifetime for Zechariah and Elizabeth. Filled with grief, frustration, disappointment, defeat, heartache, and the list goes on.
You’ve been there. You’ve felt it, too.
But God was up to something the entire time. He knew what He was going to do and when He was going to do it and how He was going to do it.
Hope is on God’s timetable, not ours.
Sure, Zechariah and Elizabeth wanted a baby in their young years like everyone else. But it’s what God did in their older years that made them part of something truly miraculous and significant.
We understand the miracle: barrenness to fertility. But it was also meaningful. The son born to Zechariah and Elizabeth was none other than John the Baptist – the one who played a significant role to make way for the message of forgiveness through Jesus.
So next time you’re tempted to get impatient, because you’re living life on your timetable, keep hope alive, remembering that the best that’s yet to come is on God’s timetable.