God’s Gifts at Christmas: 3. Patience

December 13, 2020

Patience is a virtue – which makes me VERY unvirtuous as I have never been a patient person!  Patience also is a portion of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), so I know have a very long way to go in my journey of spiritual transformation! 

This reality check was a real bummer until I heard Mr. Rogers channeled through my daughter’s wisdom to my impatient 2-year-old granddaughter: “Nina, patience is waiting a little longer than you’d like for something good to happen!”  

What a wonderful interpretation of Paul’s words in Romans 8:24-25:  “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hope for what is seen?But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Being patient is so much easier to accept when we know that something good will come along – ‘Just wait a bit longer and you’ll see,’ my daughter – and Mr. Rogers – said! 

I believe one of God’s gifts at Christmas is patience.  

Examples?

Consider Mary and Joseph.

Mary was a pregnant virgin. 

Joseph was not the father.  

Any expectant couple can tell you that patiently waiting for the birth of a newborn is hard – especially in that last month when it seems pregnancy has gone on forever.  

This particular couple had to patiently wait a little longer than they wanted to see that ‘all that the angel’ had told them was actually true. (Luke 1:32-33, Matthew 1:20-21) Still, not even the birth would be total affirmation. 

The arrival of the shepherds would close that ‘nativity loop’ because the angels told the men the exact same thing Mary and Joseph had heard (Luke 2:11):  this birth so patiently waited for was the birth of God’s Son – the birth of the Messiah – the birth of the Savior of the world!  

The hope of the world had become reality!  

For centuries, people had looked for the Messiah to arrive – some waited patiently (prophets and priests), some not so patiently (the Zealots), and some seemed to have given up hope, if their reactions to the coming of Christ any indication (the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and teachers of the law).  

But, in God’s time, those who patiently and humbly waited in certain hope received the promised One; the promise of God’s salvation, peace, and love to all the world who would receive God’s unseen Presence now made flesh in a wonderfully unexpected way! Remember the gift of accessibility? 

This Child didn’t come as a king in a palace. 

God’s Messiah didn’t ride in on a charger with an angelic army to take charge and destroy all enemies foreign and domestic.

God’s Messiah came as an infant who would grow in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor in the humble setting of a carpenter’s home .  (Luke 2:52). 

Yet, the birth of Christ was not enough; God’s Messiah would need to grow up; even though the initial waiting was over, more patience was required.

Mary and Joseph, and all those who would share life and ministry with Jesus over the years, would necessarily need to patiently wait just a bit longer than they would have liked for everything to make sense as the nature of God was revealed in Jesus’ life of healing, inclusion, forgiveness, and unconditional love.  

But still, even this patient revelation of God’s grace and loving mercy was not enough! 

What about the promised messianic role of Deliverer? More patience would be required while waiting for that! 

In the face of persecution, derision, rejection and indeed the crucifixion of this precious Life – three more days of patience would be necessary before the true identity of the Son of God was revealed!

Once again, an angelic message would affirm God’s wonderful promise to the patiently waiting (Luke 24:5-7). Christ is risen!  Christ, the first born of the new creation, makes all things new!  The Messianic promise was one of eternal deliverance: deliverance from sin and death! 

The hope born at Christmas patiently was realized in the empty tomb of Easter;  a realized hope far greater than anything humanity could have expected or imagined! 

Patience is indeed waiting a little longer than we hoped for something good to happen!  

+ + +

Yet, here’s the thing.  We know about Christmas and Easter. We know about the messianic promise of forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  But is that it?  Are we to struggle through life as best we can day in and day out until ‘the end of life as we know it?’ 

We long for something good to happen now! Delayed gratification isn’t exactly our thing!  So…….

What if the gift of patience we receive at Christmas involves the birth/indwelling of the Christ within us?  

What if, because of Christ’s spiritual indwelling, we experience the hoped for revelation of the image of God growing within each of us? 

What if, as this spiritual growth continues, we begin to more fully reflect God’s  nature of forgiveness, unconditional love, inclusivity, and healing presence in our day to day living?  Others will notice, lives will be changed – and God, not we – will be glorified.

Then, the wonderful truth we have so patiently waited for will be realized.  

What realization?

As we begin to live into God’s gift of patience and God’s holy transformative work, we will realize that we are becoming part of this wonderful thing we so patiently have waited for: the peaceable kingdom of God come to earth; a time when all shall see and know Him as Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings and be drawn to Him.

It seems something beyond imagining, doesn’t it? But to paraphrase the words of Gabriel to Mary, nothing is beyond the imagining of God! (Luke 1:37)

I pray God’s gift of patience will be ours this Christmas! After all, patience is waiting a little longer than you’d like for something good to happen!

Something wonderful is coming!

And to God be the glory!  AMEN!

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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