“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Pharrell, and Pharrell the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”–Matthew 1:1-17
“If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.”–Habakkuk 2:3
I needed to do some research for a post on Advent and the articles were taking forever to load. I hit the refresh button. For whatever reason, our internet was being finicky so I hit refresh again with the same gusto that 1950’s sitcom dads used to hit their boob tube TVs when their black-and-white came in grainy.
A genealogy is the most boring introduction to the Christmas story; it takes a long time to read through a set of names whose significance is not intuitive. Matthew’s genealogy is so tedious that some of you may not have noticed that music magnate Pharrell WIlliams is not actually in Jesus’ bloodline: Azor is the father of Zadok, not Pharrell.
At any rate, at the end of Matthew 1:1-17, before the birth narrative, we’re left with the impression that it took a very long time to get to Jesus.
In a study a few years ago, a UMass computer science professor found that if an online video takes two seconds to load, 25% of the viewers abandon it. If the video takes 10 seconds, half the viewers are gone, and if it’s 30 seconds, more than 80% are disappeared.
And what happens if the video isn’t available online? One student surveyed for a Pew Research study on the effects of technology on millennials explained: “If I want to watch a movie now, and it’s not on Netflix or on-demand, then I’m not going to put any more effort into finding it.”
I don’t know if I do waiting well.
In truth, I pay for so much of my own life to be instantaneous, pleasurable/useful, and constantly engaged/connected. How many apps on my phone offer the slowest updates, the longest wait times, or the most amazing content later? One: Apple Maps.
At the very best, I could be really good at waiting; but if I can avoid it, especially when it comes to my own life conveniences, why would I?
Every year, on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day, the Advent season begins. In the Christian tradition, it is a time of waiting and expectation in anticipation for the birth of Christ. It is a meaningful distinction. Advent is, in its culmination, about the birth of Jesus yet a majority of it is about the wait. It is about the long expectation.
After all, as Matthew tediously reminds us, Jesus’s arrival was long anticipated, longer than a month—it was a forty-two-generation-long patience.
Herein lies the wonderful counterculture of the coming Jesus during Advent: 1.) we are promised something of immense value that we cannot buy 2.) meant for our communal edification (i.e. salvation), not my own consumption and, finally, 3.) we are compelled to wait for it on a schedule that does not accede to our own.
Among my peers, it seems as if, each year, we want so much to happen and will do whatever it takes to get there: whether it’s a house, a career, a baby, or a romance. Or perhaps it will be the year of a new friendship, a new direction, a new project/adventure, or a new hope.
Still, without fail, this recurring Advent reminds us that great things—the salvific and redeeming kinds of things—are not seized on our own power and volition. They require patient waiting.
Looking back on this year, I’ve gotten so many denials of different kinds that they’ve blurred together. I’m fairly certain this was a text I received at some point:
Thank you for your submission. We regret that we are unable to accept it at this time, but we appreciate your interest. Please do not respond to this message.
Nice single girl you met at the pumpkin patch
If I’m honest with myself, I’m waiting on a lot of things.
If you are too then maybe, like myself, you’ve found yourself asking God if you’re being unreasonable with your request. The infuriating lesson is that when God asks us to wait, it has nothing to do with the reasonableness of the request. It has everything to do with the goodness of God. Can we trust God to deliver on His promise that He will provide, even if it’s not exactly the way we want or expect it?
Every year, at this time of year, His answer is always the same.
If I have to wait for a traffic light or a line for coffee, I find myself needing to fill the time—text someone, respond to an email, hit refresh on a site that I just checked two minutes ago. I always feel like I need to fill the gap or the space between. To me, waiting means diverting my focus until the thing is ready for me.
But what does waiting well look like? I imagine that it will mean continuing to faithfully keep our focus unflinchingly on God and attending carefully to our relationship with Christ, not filling the gaps with distractions and idols until we get what we really want. That will look different for each of us, and I’ll leave that to you to figure that out.
It’s a weird paradox every year to keep waiting on the Lord–to keep waiting for Christ to finally show up because if we do this waiting, expecting, Advent thing, we find that he already has.