Here's the lie that most of us have fallen victim to, the lie that's stealing away this season of Advent for us: If you wait, you're going to miss out.
It's the tyranny of the now. Prices are never going to be this low again. You're never going to get this moment back. There's never going to be a better time. If right now looks like the moment, that's because it is, and if you risk waiting....on anything, for anything....you're going to miss what this moment has to offer. And you'll never have this chance again.
To some extent, even the church has bought into this mentality. There seems to be a growing emphasis in the church about living in the present, about capturing this moment, about seizing this opportunity, about taking this chance, right now, because God is here, right now, in this moment, and if God is in this moment, then you ought to fully be here, too.
There's some truth, I suppose, to all of this. It's true that there's never going to be another moment like this one. It's true that prices may never again be this low (true, but highly unlikely). It's true that if you risk waiting, you might miss out on something. You will never have exactly this chance again.
But does that mean we never wait?
Of course not. Despite all our rhetoric, waiting is an essential part of the Christian life. In most of our dialogue, it's called "hope." And hope sustains us.
Hope holds a story together. It's the nagging suspicion that you can't shake that something's about to happen for the good, that something's about to bring some of the pieces together, that something's about to make sense out of all of this.
There's been a bit of a trend lately in some cinematic ventures in Hollywood where movies have taken on this snapshot motif. The entire movie is just scenes from a story, as if just showing the scenes is enough to tell the story. American Sniper did this, and when the end credits rolled, I felt like the whole thing was missing something. There was nothing to tie it together. There was not a moment in the entire movie that I found myself wondering what happened next; there was no way for me to legitimately wonder. In the sequence of scenes, there was no "next." There was just one moment after another after another without anything real to hold them together.
That's what our lives become when we don't know how to wait. Scenes, not stories. That's what God becomes when we don't know how to hope. A scene, not a story. In this moment, God showed up. In that one, not so much. We live our lives never knowing what God is doing or not doing, what He will do or won't do, and it's not much worth our even wondering about. There's nothing holding the story together. It's just one thing after another after another.
And that's why our seasons of waiting, of hope, are so important. They pull us back out of the scenes and throw us into the story. They remind us of the promise that something is developing here, something is going on, something is about to bring some of the pieces together. Something's about to make sense out of all of this.
In this season, that something is Jesus. And if you're not actively waiting for Him, there's every chance in this world that you're going to miss it.
There's every chance that you're going to fall asleep early and wake up to a bunch of excited children at some wee hour of the morning and in this moment, there's nothing to draw your eyes toward the heavens, nothing to make you look up. You'll never see that bright and morning star. There's every chance that you may take a baby in your arms (however old that "baby" might be) and in the tyranny of the now, forget completely about the baby in the manger. There's every chance that you'll give and receive gifts, spend the morning buried in scraps of wrapping paper, and never once smell frankincense or catch a glimpse of gold.
There's every chance you'll come out of this Christmas with another scene in your own personal movie, having missed entirely the story of Christmas.
And that's just what the world is hoping you'll do. That's the lie. The lie is that if you wait, if you keep your eyes open to hope, to promise, to the unfolding story of Christmas, you'll miss Christmas altogether. You'll miss all these moments with your family. You'll miss the memories you're going to make this year.
But the truth is much more sobering. The truth is that if you don't wait, if you live this season just for the moment, if you can't stop thinking about all the memories you're going to make this year, you might just miss Christmas altogether.