SCRIPTURE James 5:7-10
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of our Lord.
MESSAGE “Not Later, Right Now” James Renfrew, Teaching Elder
On Fridays, my day off, I volunteer in my granddaughter’s second grade classroom. It’s School #12 across from Highland Hospital in Rochester.
Two days ago, on my way into the school I saw some flashing lights just past the Loew’s store in Brockport, some sort of accident up ahead, and when I got close I saw that the road had been blocked off and all the drivers were forced to take a left turn. So I followed that detour and when I made the next turn, traffic was at a complete standstill, a line of cars about a half mile long going nowhere, and it took me a long time to get back the main road. I arrived at the school almost an hour late. If you were stuck in traffic for an hour would you be feeling patient or impatient?
When I arrived, the teacher told me she was about to leave for the day. She’s only a week away from having a baby, and she felt something happening that morning so maybe it would be best to go home. She told her class that maybe she would be back on Monday, but maybe she’ll be having that baby a week early? All of the children were excited for her. They can’t wait to see the new baby! In that classroom who was patient, and who was impatient? If you were about to have a baby would you be patient of impatient?
You heard what James wrote in his letter: “Be patient until the coming of the Lord.” What kind of person are you? Are you patient? Or are you impatient? I know how you folks think, so let me try this answer to the question: sometimes I’m patient and sometimes I’m impatient, it depends on what’s going on. When would it be a good time to be patient? When would it be a good time to be impatient?
James is not writing to people eager for Christmas to arrive, but we can apply his words to this season just the same. Children are excited and impatient about Christmas coming soon. I think that older folks are generally more patient about Christmas. Here’s my theory why. When you’re 5 years old the next Christmas is one fifth of your life away. When you’re sixty, it’s just one sixtieth of your life from now. For children it seems to take forever to get to the next Christmas. For us older folks it feels like Christmas comes around quickly, like a revolving door!
So for me, I’m usually very patient when it comes to Christmas. But I’m impatient about a lot of other things. There are things happening in the world that genuinely frighten me, and you bet that I’m very impatient to get these things fixed. For me Christmas is a time to look forward in hope to embrace the kind of future that I know God is working on. For me Christmas is not a nostalgic retreat into the past. Looking back, of course, is a delight, because we remember all of the songs, traditions and relationships that have meant so much to us. But for me this is a season to look forward. That is inherently more uncertain because few of us, if any, can predict the future. If we only look back then nothing changes, if we look forward then it’s all about change. The main themes of Christmas – joy, love, peace, hope – are not what we remember from the past. These are things that we want build up in times to come. God sending Jesus into the world is not something that was done once a long time ago. Advent is the expectation that something new is going to happen! God promises, God delivers.
Looking back or looking forward? The important thing is not to miss it!
One of the best responses to the impatient people of this world is found in II Peter. Let’s all rise, if we can, and recall this words as an expression of belief:
*WHAT WE BELIEVE 2 Peter 3:8-9,13
“But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about the promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. In accordance with God’s promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” Amen