First Wednesday of Advent: Slow Fruit
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
I do not consider myself to be a naturally patient person.
I have always thought well of those who “make it happen.” But, the Lord asks, who is the One who makes things happen? Through his servant James, the Lord opens my eyes and redirects my will to a different path. He directs me to Advent waiting.
James commands us to do something that many of us find challenging: to be patient. I know of few Christians who consider themselves to be particularly strong in this area. It is convicting that Paul lists patience as evidence—”fruit”—of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, especially when we lose our cool with great regularity. But, nonetheless, patient is what James commands us to be.
We are to be patient in the manner of a farmer waiting for the land to yield its crops. This is a powerful image. Consider the farmer: he plows, he sows, then he waits. Will it rain adequately? Will there be enough sun? Will birds snatch away those precious seeds? Will weeds choke and crowd? Blight? The farmer’s life and the life of his family depends upon the outcome—yet he waits, patiently, trusting that what is necessary will come. Certainly his impatience won’t hasten the crop!
But James goes beyond a mere command. He frames “be patient” in light of “the Lord’s coming.” The Lord Jesus is coming again at the last day. He says, “The Judge is standing at the door!” Not only is the Lord coming—He is coming as the Judge of heaven and earth and all who dwell there. And his return is imminent. It could happen at any time. It could be next week, or tomorrow. Or today, right now!
We await that coming: The Second Advent.
The season of Advent has always been understood as a period of expectant waiting—not only for our celebrations of the birth of Christ, but for his return on the clouds. We wait expectantly for God to intervene in human history, to bring the work of redemption to its consummation. We wait for the Lord’s victory, in the Lord’s time.
This is Advent waiting.
Advent waiting isn’t just an abstract reflective waiting. It is an active waiting that has practical out-workings. Patient waiting leads us to live and act differently than we would otherwise do. James commands us, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers.”
Who connects the return of Christ or the season of Advent with grumbling? James (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) does. If we really believe Christ is coming—and we wait for it patiently, like the farmer waiting for the harvest—we won’t be annoyed or distracted by whatever petty offenses we might otherwise be inclined to grumble or complain about.
James gives us another practical application: Our Advent theology enables us to display patience in the face of suffering. Just like Job, James says, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and what the Lord finally brought about.”
Why was Job able to persevere? Because of his Advent theology.
Consider Job 19:25: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” Job is able to persevere because he looks forward to the day he will stand before the Lord for vindication. Job is waiting for the same event we are: Judgment Day, the Return of Christ, the Second Advent.
Until then? We wait for the Judge, who is full of compassion and mercy. We wait for the Lord, who is standing at the door.
Vince Burens is the President and CEO of the CCO. He has served in various roles on CCO staff since first joining staff in 1999.