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I think half of my childhood was spent waiting on Christmas Day. When I was in the first grade I remember lying in bed one cool October night with my imagination running wild, just thinking about what it would be like when Christmas came. Like most 6 year olds, I didn’t have a very good grasp of time. I remember getting out of bed and walking into our kitchen where I heard my mother cleaning and getting our lunches ready for school the next day. I asked her how long it would be until Christmas. When she told me that I still had several more weeks to wait my heart sank a bit.
I was ready for Christmas. I wanted to see my grandparents, I wanted to eat Christmas cookies, I wanted to decorate the tree, and I especially wanted to open presents. The longing stayed with me. The hope, the expectation, and the waiting were all part of Christmas manifesting itself into my world. In my heart Christmas had already arrived, but Christmas Day was still to come. Those are my earliest memories of living in the already and the not yet.
As an adult the waiting and longing in life continues. This past summer–still in the shadow of the loss of my Grandfather only a month prior–I along with many of my family members, waited around the bedside of my Grandmother as hospice was called to administer care. Over several days, she slowly drifted from this life into the next. We sang hymns about heaven with her, we shared the Lord’s Supper, we recited the Apostles Creed as we grieved and steadied our lives facing the inevitable. We were waiting, watching, longing, and hanging on her every breath; wondering which one would be her last. When she waved her final goodbye we were relieved that her suffering was over, we were hurting because we already missed her, and we were heavy with the hope that all believers have. We will have to wait, but we hope in God, knowing will see her again.
My wife and I also experienced two miscarriages this year. The watching, waiting, and longing to see our babies ended in hospital rooms with doctors telling us the babies didn’t make it. As I held my wife in those hospital rooms, I recited the Apostles Creed again, trusting, believing and hoping in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. We needed that hope more than ever before. We still do.
2000 years ago heaven sent a baby into this world named Jesus. The prophets foretold his birth and for many, many years the people of God put their hope in the Messiah who would come to save them from the brokenness of the world in which they found themselves. They watched for him, they waited, they longed and prayed for the coming King, but it seemed that silence was the only reply from Heaven.
But then, in a way they never imagined, the silence of the years was broken. An angel came to Mary and her relatives with a message that the Messiah was coming. One night in Bethlehem as angels sang songs of glory and terrified shepherds trembled in their fields at the heralded announcement of his advent, Jesus the Savior of the world was born. The One who had been watched for, waited upon, and longed for was among us, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger where livestock fed.
God made good on His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ. He was a man in the flesh and a Jew by birth; he grew up poor and lived in a small village until the time was right. At the age of 30 he left his home and journeyed into the world doing good, curing people through the power of his Father, teaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and revealing that the meaning of religion is love.
His people rejected by him, tortured him and nailed hands and feet to a cross where he died like a criminal between two thieves. He lay buried in the grave, but death could not defeat him. On the third day, he rose from the grave, he revealed himself to his followers, he told them to wait on the Holy Spirit, he ascended into heaven and he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the Lord and He will come again. We wait expectantly for him to return.
So, once again, we find ourselves waiting; just as we’ve been waiting for 2000 years for a Savior who is, and was, and is to come. We wait in the confidence that all our sins are forgiven through Him. We watch for him, believing that all who have faith in Him must repent, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, and live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. While we wait, we break bread together and in love announce this Good News to others until Jesus comes again: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
I’m still ready for Christmas. I still want to see my grandparents. I really want to hold my unborn children. I still want to eat Christmas cookies, I still want to decorate the tree, and I still like to open presents. Yet the gift that means more to me than any other is Jesus. The longing to see the Savior has formed me. Because he lives I believe I will see my grandparents again. Because he is alive, we believe we will one day hold our unborn children. We believe that one day soon, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness.
The season of Advent is a season of watching, waiting, and longing for the coming of Christ. With the season of Advent the Christian New Year starts and we begin to tell this story of hope all over again. The word Advent literally means coming, in this four week season we are waiting for our Savior who was, is, and is to come. Advent is a season of hope.
“Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting, Longing)” is a song of expectation that looks to the second coming of Christ through the lens of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is a joyful song of celebration and a way to retell of the story of Jesus. I’m so pleased that Lifeway Worship has made this song available for churches to use during this Advent season. What a story of hope we have to share.