Thursday, December 9, 2010

Patience At Christmas

Are you a ‘patient’ person? And what do we really mean when say someone has ‘patience’?
Don’t we usually just assume ‘patience’ has to do with how someone ‘bears up’ under an unpleasant circumstance? You know - it takes ‘patience’ to pleasantly wait in line at the checkout at Walmart; it takes ‘patience’ not to sit on your horn in a traffic jam that is keeping you from getting to work on time; it takes ‘patience’ not to rudely slam the phone down on the telemarketer calling during dinner.
The following are some definitions of ‘patience’ I found: good-natured tolerance of delay or incompetence; the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties; the capacity to endure hardship, difficulty, or inconvenience without complaint; calmness, self-control, and the willingness or ability to tolerate delay.
Do you see how much we place the emphasis of ‘patience’ on enduring ‘negative’ things - things that would cause an ‘impatient’ person to lose control, get angry, become annoyed, etc.? But there are many areas where ‘patience’ is required to obtain something good, or to await the arrival of something good, or to allow something to come fully into fruition.
As the Christmas holidays are upon us, I see so many areas where our ‘patience’ gets tested. There are lines and crowds of people everywhere – not just at malls, but on the roads, in the grocery stores, etc. Everyone is in such a hurry and our lives become so hectic. We have children who are barely able to wait for Christmas to arrive. Our anticipation of seeing loved ones builds and builds. We look toward gatherings with family and friends. And still others may have a difficult time not ‘loosing it’ because loved ones won’t be there this year.
So much ‘patience’ is required to make it through the holidays. But I’ve been thinking about how much the whole concept of Christmas epitomizes ‘patience’. Let me explain.
All the way back to the Garden of Eden, man has been inventing ways to go his own way, turn his back on God, disregard the ‘perfect plan’ that had been envisioned. And all the way back to the Garden of Eden, God has had His mind on the plan to reconcile man to Himself.
Yet, in His perfect patience, God revealed only glimpses of His plan through generations and generations of His people. Through the patriarchs, the judges, the kings, the exiles and captivities, He patiently continued to reveal portions of what He had planned – hints of the glorious plan of salvation He had conceived.
But the time wasn’t yet perfect.
So He waited.
And then the time arrived. And the Plan conceived in eternities past was born.
But still – patience.
The glorious majesty of Almighty God was wrapped inside the flesh of little baby. And He patiently endured the application of time, His environment, and physical needs to the body He occupied. He patiently waited 30 years before even starting to spread His message of redemption to those to whom He came. In perfect patience He served, taught, healed, touched, and loved. Knowing the depth and richness of the grace and mercy that was to come, He patiently tolerated, turned the other cheek, endured, and bled.
So, in my mind’s eye, when I see that Infant in the manger, I’m awestruck with the thought of the patience that was demonstrated. Knowing the plan of redemption that was unfolding, the God Child waited patiently until the time was perfect.
And when I see the God Man hanging on the cross, I’m overwhelmed with the thought of Him patiently enduring thousands of years of rebellion by His creation, culminating in the prolonged torture and brutal murder of the body He occupied.
Patience. Isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?
God patiently endured us. And He patiently allowed the unfolding of His perfect plan to restore us to Himself. He didn’t rush it. He never got behind schedule.
God had a plan. A perfect plan.
He patiently saw it through.
For a child has been born - for us! The gift of a son - for us! He'll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. (Isaiah 9:6, MSG)
I don’t think that I’ll be as quick to pat myself on the back next time I think I’m being ‘patient’ by pleasantly smiling at the lady in front of me who is fumbling with her keys in the checkout line when she should be taking her change and receipt and moving on.
O LORD, I will honor and praise your name,
for you are my God.
You do such wonderful things!
You planned them long ago,
and now you have accomplished them
Isaiah 25:1, NLT

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