This is a copy of my talk for the Community Carol Service at Emmanuel on Sunday 16 December 2018. 

Some of you may remember the song ‘Tired Of Waiting’ first released by The Kinks in 1965 which includes the line: “I’m so tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for you.” Whilst this was released 53 years ago, the theme of the song is timeless. We all get tired of waiting.

Waiting at the petrol station to fill up our tanks. Waiting at the supermarket checkout for the person in front of us to pack their bags. Waiting for the right job to come along. Waiting for a Brexit resolution. Waiting to find out who’s won BBC Sports personality of the Year. Waiting for Sunderland to get promotion back to the Premiership – that’s going to be a long wait!  We spend a lot of our lives waiting. According to a recent survey, we wait, on average:

  • 20 minutes a day for the bus or train – 27 days of a commuter’s life is spent waiting around on the platform or at the bus stop!
  • 32 minutes whenever we visit a doctor.
  • 28 minutes in security when passing through an airport.
  • 21 minutes for a significant other to get ready to go out. Only 21 mins!
  • 38 hours each year stuck in traffic. This increases to 50 hours for those living in cities – or Billericay!
  • We spend approximately 6 months of our lives waiting in queues.
  • And, get this, the average person spends 43 days in their lifetime on hold with automated customer services!

We live in a technologically driven culture that values speed and efficiency. You know the mantra: I want it, and I want it NOW!

But I wonder if we have become so dependent on the efficiency of the latest gadget that we’re not used to waiting? When a computer is slow, a network is down, or a smart phone crashes, we crash too.  We don’t do waiting very well. I don’t!

Even in our Christian lives we find ourselves in a hurry, only to find that God isn’t!

The Bible is full of people that waited. They waited for over 400 years for the birth of Jesus. They were anticipating a time when a king would be born to rescue them from their enemies.

In the book of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, the first thing we read about is a large group of people who were Jesus’ ancestors. They are the messy, but royal, family tree of Jesus. We read about a prostitute named Rahab, a royal king named David, and an old man named Abraham.

We heard a little of Abraham’s story from Genesis 22. It’s a messy story that involves a lot of waiting. He and his wife Sarah were waiting to be parents, but Sarah is unable to conceive a child. But one day, God speaks to him and tells him that he will be a father. Can you imagine how excited he must have been? He was 75 years old and was being promised a child at last.

Time goes by, and life goes on for Abraham and Sarah. They move house, their nephew is abducted, Abraham goes on a rescue mission, he defeats kings in battle, and he makes royal friends. Typical, ordinary, everyday life for a Patriarch. But still no baby.

God promises Abraham that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the sky; there will be even more of them than the sand on the shore. But Abraham is still waiting for his first child.

Doubt kicks in and a messy scenario unfolds. Abraham’s wife Sarah tells him to sleep with another woman, Hagar, and have a child with her. It’s a success! Baby Ishmael appears the same year that Abraham turns 86. Eleven years after God’s first promise. But despite all going to plan, it wasn’t God’s plan.

Eventually, God gets specific with Abraham. He tells him he will have a son with Sarah, and he will call him Isaac. Fast-forward, and 100-year-old Abraham is celebrating with his 90-year-old wife Sarah at the arrival of their son, Isaac. He was worth the wait! This was the messy start of a family leading to Jesus. Through Abraham’s descendants, Jesus would one day be born.

In Jesus’ family tree we also come across King David. As a youngster, David had always been the irrelevant one in his family. The one whose own father didn’t even mention him when Samuel, a man sent by God, came asking to see his sons. Samuel was looking for the future king, but David’s father presented all of his sons except for David. David’s own father didn’t even believe in him. But that didn’t stop God.

Just as God made an enormous promise to Abraham, he made an enormous promise to David to make him king and he also promised that through his descendants, there would arrive the King of Kings – we heard this in our reading from Isaiah 9.

This King wouldn’t rule only Israel, but the entire world. And not only would he rule the world, but he would save people from all of their mess. But again, the promises didn’t come true right away; David had to wait 15 years to become king. And then it took much longer than that for the King of Kings to arrive. But, like Isaac, he was well worth the wait!

I love the last verse of our reading from John’s Gospel: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.

Jesus, the King of Kings was born into a world that was in a bit of a mess. Not too unlike our world today. Herod, the king of Israel, Herod, was threatened by the news of the birth of Jesus and that people such as Shepherds and Wise Men were going to worship this baby, calling him King. Herod was raging with jealousy and wanted to kill Jesus – the first of many people who wished to do the same.

So, for the 33 years Jesus lived on earth, he was surrounded by a messy world with a messy family history. But Jesus came to clean up our messy lives that became messed up right back at the beginning of the human race – we saw this in Genesis 3, our first reading.

Matthew 1.21 says that Jesus has come to save people from their mess. This means our mistakes, our wrong decisions, and our shame.

An anonymous poet once said:

If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent an economist.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Saviour.

David and Abraham’s lives were far from perfect. David started out as a ‘nobody’ whose father didn’t believe in him. Abraham’s promises from God always seemed to fall flat, year after year.

But God didn’t need perfect people to fulfil his plan. He didn’t need their lives to be neat and tidy. And God doesn’t need our lives to be neat and tidy, either. God knows that we aren’t very good at keeping our lives free from mess, so he promises us a way to be part of his royal family even if we’re not very good at being royal.

God weaved a story of hope, peace, love and joy through an old man and an unexpected king. He presented Jesus, his only son, to pay the price for all of the mess we have created – even the mess we still create today.

It’s great to know that the mess in our own lives is no barrier to God. His family is not limited to the elite, to the royal and famous. His family extends to the old and young, rich and poor. Despite what our lives may look like, if we choose to accept Jesus as Saviour then we ourselves become members of His ‘royal’ family.

As the last verse of our next carol reminds us: O Holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

Are you tired of waiting? This Christmas you can find that peace, love, joy and hope you are looking for. This Christmas, you are warmly invited to play your part in the messy, royal family of God – and that’s a Good News story which is well worth waiting for.

Carol Service 2018

Carol Service 2018