Opening presents on Christmas morning was always the best when I was a kid.

The joy that came from unwrapping presents, checking out what Santa put in my stocking, playing with all my new stuff that was great. The worst part was waiting for my parents to get up…specifically my mom.  My mom had a hard and fast rule about NOT getting up early on Christmas morning.  Ten o’clock was her ritualistic time of awakening.  If we tried to get her up early, it would be like restarting the sleep clock and we’d have to wait even longer.  Hard to blame her.  It is a day off after all.  But for a kid waiting to open presents, it’s the toughest wait of all.  When we were young, my sister Karen and I would get up about five or six in the morning and go out to the living room where Santa delivered our presents. We weren’t allowed to touch anything – my parents wanted to capture our expressions in photographs – but we could look.  So we’d circle around the living room table like vultures stalking their prey, trying to peek into the stockings to see what was in there, too.  Then after THOSE 5 minutes were up…we’d sit there and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  5:06am.  4 hours and 54 minutes to go.  The agony of WAITING – that was the worst.

I don’t know of very many people who LIKE waiting.

The very long line at Big Thunder Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland - Disney a master in queue management
The very long line at Big Thunder Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland – Disney a master in queue management

Sometimes we don’t mind it, but if were given the choice, I don’t know of anyone who would choose to wait.  For me, it gnaws at me.  I feel like it’s a waste of time.  On a daily basis we’ve got so many things to do, places to be, and work to be done that we don’t have TIME to sit around and wait.  But it seems no matter what we do, we can’t escape it.  We have to wait in line at the drive-thru at McDonald’s, we have to wait for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, we have to wait in security lines at the airport.  But do you know where we hate waiting in line the most?  The DMV.[1]  And the thing is they’ve really tried hard to make improvements over the years, and yet somehow we still end up waiting.  Did you know that we wait on average 2 full days out of every year?  2 days a year of our life is spent simply waiting![2]  We can’t even avoid waiting in our free time.  Just take a look at any popular ride at Disneyland.  When Cars Land first opened, the line to get on Radiator Springs Racers was 192 minutes.  192 minutes!  I didn’t even know those counters went up that high.  Disney though is the best at line management.  They try all sorts of things to make you feel less like you’re waiting in line.  They put up exhibits, they have interactive elements in the line, they try to immerse you in the experience even before you get on the ride. When I worked there, my first summer I was right next to the Jungle Cruise and they would pass the time by telling jokes to the guests.  One of my favorites was when one of the guys would say over the loudspeaker, “Good morning! If anyone has lost five one-hundred dollar bills wrapped in a red rubber band, please come up to the front.  We have some good news for you.  We’ve found your red rubber band.  If any of you would like to see the line move faster, please raise your hands.  Alright, all of those of you with your hands raised, please step aside and let everyone by you so you can see the line move faster.  Thank you.”  I hate to say it, but waiting is simply is a part of life.

And how you wait, says a lot about YOU.

Do you get mad?  Do you get annoyed?  Do you try to kill people?  Sounds ridiculous, right?  But it happens.  An MIT professor, Dr. Richard Larson has been studying the science of waiting in line and found that people can get so mad they actually turn violent.  He calls it “Queue Rage.”  Q-U-E-U-E.   Queue rage.[3]  People actually can become so frustrated, mad, and annoyed while standing in line that they become excessively violent.  That’s what happened at this one McDonald’s in Athens, GA.[4]  A woman, Ruth Driscoll-Dunn, was waiting to order breakfast, and when they opened a new line, the cashier didn’t manage the crowd and just made the opening up for grabs.  The two women who were behind Ruth stepped forward to the front and ordered before her.  She got so mad that she threatened to kill them.  Now usually, those are just threats.  We all get mad from time to time and say things we shouldn’t, but Ruth waited outside the McDonald’s in her jeep, waited for the two women to exit the place, and then tried to run them over.  Can you imagine that?  Over an Egg McMuffin?

Waiting can make us irrational, but God wants us to be patient.

If you’ve ever read the Bible, you know that God teaches patience ALL the time.  Today we’re going to read a passage that talks specifically about that quality so if you have your Bibles, would you please turn to 1 Corinthians 13 beginning with verse 4.  1 Corinthians 13:4.  You might think this passage a little weird to focus on patience since this is the famous “love” passage from the Bible and patience is only one aspect of it, but patience is at the root of who God is.  It’s part of his essential being.  So if we are called upon by God to live a Christ-like life, we must conclude that our life must INCLUDE patience.  Look at all the people in the Bible that God had endure long trials and hardships. Noah, Job, the people of ancient Israel. Noah was on that boat for 150 days.  In our heads we think 40, but that’s just how long it rained.  Noah and his family were trapped on that boat with two of every animal for 150 days.  Could you imagine what that must have smelled like?  Then of course we have Job from whom the saying “to have the patience of Job” comes from.  Some scholars say his suffering lasted a full year, although the Bible is never specific on that point.[5]  But even so, we know that Job endured his suffering with patience and never lost hope in God.  And then of course there was the time when the people of Israel were sent out into the desert for 40 years.  40 YEARS!  God brought his people out of Egypt and when their hearts were full of doubt, he made them wander for 40 years to think about it.  But through their patience or because of it, each of these people were rewarded for their faith.  So let’s read that passage now from 1 Corinthians 13 and perhaps find an answer to God’s patience.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How many of you know the transitive property of equality? 

No, it’s not a trick question, we really are talking about math in church.  Church can be spiritual AND educational.  Your sermon notes describe the transitive property of equality like this: If a = b and b = c, then a = c.  And using this fundamental math theorem we can hypothesize that patience is essential to God’s character.  Because we know from reading the Bible that God is love.  It says in 1 John 4, “7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  So we know that God is love.  And in our passage this morning it says at the very beginning of verse 4, “Love is patient.” I thought it was interesting to note that love according to Paul is characterized by only two qualities – patience and kindness.  Patience and kindness.  Verse 5 and 6 tell us what love is NOT and verse 7 shows us the actions of love, but only two qualities – patience and kindness – describe the character of love.  So using the transitive property of equality, we can postulate that God is patient.  If we know that God is love and that love is patient, then we can say that God is patient.  That an essential part of God’s character is patience.  But if you want more evidence of it, just open up your Bibles to the second letter of Peter.  In chapter 3 it says, “8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  He is patient with you…not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  God’s love for us is expressed in the patient way he waits for us to come to him. God is patient with you and his patience is an expression of his great love for you.  When you love someone or something enough to be patient, then you know love, because love is patient and God is patient with us.

Advent is a time of waiting.

The word Advent comes from the latin for adventus which means “coming,” and this season of our Christian year is about waiting for the coming of Christ, both as a remembrance of the past and a promise for the future.  We are a people who are waiting.  And if we truly are the people of God, we live through this time of waiting with patience.  Not with violence, not with anger, not with frustration, but with patience.

I learned a very important lesson about that from my youngest daughter, Emma.

It’s weird our insightful and astute our children can be, and how they can sometimes see things that even we can’t.  But one day, I was getting really frustrated.  It had been a hard day at work, there were lots of things I needed to get done, I still needed to fix dinner, and all I WANTED to do was sit there and do nothing.  Emma came up to me with all of these frustrations and feelings swimming around inside of me and I got really sharp with her when I shouldn’t have, but instead of getting upset or going off to her room, she just looked at me and said, “You know, Daddy, when you get upset you should take two deep breaths and count to three out loud.  That will make you feel better.”  I said, “Okay, Emma.”  And she waited for me to do it.  When it didn’t seem like I was going to, she said, “No, Daddy.  Do it right now.  You’ll feel better.”  So I did it just to appease her, and it worked!  I actually felt better and the impatience I had just a moment ago went away.  She said, “Don’t you feel better now?” And I did.  Sometimes, if we simply take time to pause before reacting, if we simply take just a moment to reflect on what we are about to do, if we just take two breaths and count to three, the world gets put back in perspective.  And sometimes we all need to do that.  Take a breath.  Step back.  And count to three. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[1]  Brian Dakss, “Companies Heeding Gripes About Long Lines,” CBS, 2/11/2009

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Student Arrested in Fast Food Attack,” Athens Banner-Herald (online edition), 8/16/2006.

[5] Job from the Jewish Encyclopedia online, the full, unedited 1906 text.

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