Waiting is tough.
But Christmas waiting has got to be the hardest of all. My mom had a hard and fast rule about NOT getting up before 10am on Christmas morning. When you’re a kid and all of Santa’s presents are just sitting there on the coffee table in the front room, 10am seems like an eternity. We’d get up extra early on Christmas morning. My sister, Karen and I would sneak into the living room and gaze longingly at our presents. We weren’t allowed to touch them (a lesson we learned the hard way one year), but we were allowed to look. So we did. We’d circle around the living room table like vultures stalking their prey, trying to angle our heads 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 some more. 5:06am. 4 hours and 54 minutes to go. The agony of WAITING – that was the worst.
And we’re not very good at it.
Human beings in general hate waiting. In fact, we hate it so much, we’ve invented stuff so we don’t have to – or at least not for very long. Processed food, fast-food restaurants, microwave ovens, and bottled water just to name a few. But faster isn’t always better. When I was in marketing, our graphic designer told me, “Everyone wants everything cheaper, faster, and better. I can give you two. I can make it cheaper and faster, but it won’t be better. I can make it faster and better, but it won’t be cheap. Or I can make it cheaper and better, but it won’t be fast. You can have two but not all three.” And for the most part, we’ve chosen faster. But faster isn’t necessarily better. Fast food, processed food, canned food have made us fat. For a long time, the thought was people just didn’t have access to better food and that if we could provide cheaper and easier access to things like fruits and vegetables, the obesity epidemic would go away. But a study from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC showed that the main factor in obesity wasn’t access at all. It was convenience, or perceived convenience. They found most people who were obese were not poor. In fact, it was mostly middle-income people who were the most overweight. Eighty percent of low-income people actually cook at home five times a week. People were choosing convenience over health. Same thing with bottled water. We love our bottled water. Human beings consume a million bottles of the stuff every minute. But not only does it take more water to produce a water bottle than what’s inside it, the plastic it’s made out of has been linked to a number of diseases like prostate and breast cancer. The bottles themselves are bad for the environment. More than 90% of people don’t recycle their plastic bottles and it ends up in landfills and oceans all over the world. None of this information is new, but we either bury it (like the plastic bottles) or we ignore it or we justify it in some way because that’s how impatient human beings are. We hate waiting so much we devise ways around it.
But sometimes waiting is precisely what we should be doing.
Sometimes being patient is what’s needed. And sometimes the results are worth the wait. If you’ve ever read the Bible, you know that God teaches about patience ALL the time. Today we’re going to read a passage that talks about it in a way you probably haven’t thought of before. 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 is a little weird to talk about patience since this is the famous “love” passage from the Bible. But even though patience is only one aspect of how love is described, it is at the root of God’s very being. So if we are called upon by God to live a Christ-like life, we must INCLUDE patience as part of that life. Look at all the people in the Bible who had to be patient. Noah was on that boat for 150 days. Can you imagine what that must have smelled like? In my head, I keep thinking it was just 40 days, mostly due to that Schoolhouse Rock song about multiplying by two (“Forty days and forty nights, didn’t it rain children? Not a speck of land in sight, didn’t it, didn’t it rain?”). 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. They must have wondered when it would come to an end. Abraham and Sarah were hoping for a child all of their married lives, but it wasn’t until he was 99 years old that he did. And 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 started to become filled with doubt, he made them wander for 40 years to think about it. Then we have Job who epitomizes the word patience. It’s whom the phrase “to have the patience of Job” comes from. Some scholars say he suffered an entire year through all the trials and tribulations he went through. A whole year of tragedy upon tragedy. Through it all Job endured his suffering with patience and never lost hope in God.
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. – 1 Corinthians 13
Patience is love. Patience is godly.
Love according to Paul in this letter to the church at Corinth is characterized by only two qualities – patience and kindness. Patience and kindness. Verses 5 and 6 tell us what love is NOT and verse 7 shows us the actions love takes, but only two qualities – patience and kindness – describe the character of love. And since we know that God is love from John’s first letter to the church it only makes sense that God is also patient. In math we call that the transitive property of equality. But you don’t have to have a degree in mathematics to figure that out, just open up your Bibles to Peter’s second letter. In chapter 3 he writes, “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.” God understands patience. He has been patient with us for thousands of years, waiting for us to get this right, to live a life of love. His patience is an expression of his love for us and that’s why we cherish those who are patient with us. Because it is an expression of love.
But sometimes we give in to our impatience in hurtful ways.
We lash out at loved ones. We say or do things we don’t mean. Our impatience clouds our judgment and makes us do things that are harmful. Not just polluting the environment or polluting our bodies, but actually hurting one another. 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. People can become so impatient they turn into the worst versions of themselves. One woman, named Ruth Driscoll-Dunn tried to run two women over with her jeep because she thought they cut in front of her in line at McDonald’s. Can you imagine that? Over an Egg McMuffin? And we can’t avoid waiting. It’s a part of life. On average two full days out of every year are spent waiting. Considering the amount of time in our life we will spend doing nothing but wait, we need to consider the importance of patience.
Advent is a time of waiting.
The word Advent itself 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. We’re always looking for the quick and easy way of doing things, but to really maximize the most out of life, we have to learn to be patient. I’m reminded of something that they would say on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. As people were waiting in line to get on the ride one of the skippers would say, “Who would like to see the line move faster? If you would like to see the line move faster, please raise your hand.” And or course at least half the crowd would raise their hands. Then he would continue, “Great! All those of you with your hands raised would you step aside and let everyone else pass? That way you can see the line move faster. Thank you.” We are in such a rush, especially during the holidays, that it can be so easy to lose our patience – with one another, with our neighbors, and with God. But take a moment every day to simply WAIT! To be alive in the waiting. To stop from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, especially during the holidays, and simply enjoy life as it is, right here, right now. Find the joy in being patient and enjoy life to the fullest.
 Op Cit. Forbes, million plastic bottles
 http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8692-job Job from the Jewish Encyclopedia online, the full, unedited 1906 text.
 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/09/earlyshow/contributors/susankoeppen/main2663189.shtml Brian Dakss, “Companies Heeding Gripes About Long Lines,” CBS, 2/11/2009
 http://onlineathens.com/stories/081606/uganews_20060816074.shtml “Student Arrested in Fast Food Attack,” Athens Banner-Herald (online edition), 8/16/2006.