I am going to spend the four Wednesdays of Advent integrating thoughts on this season of preparation with meditations from The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth A Clarion Classic by Miles J. Stanford (you might want to get “The Complete Green Letters” also available here)
If you don’t have this on your bookshelf, I highly recommend it. It’s a ‘Lifer’. A Book that you will come back to over and over again. My husband and I were introduced to it while we were in a year internship in Hungary through our Discipleship Leaders, ministering twenty plus years there which began during Communism and they have fed long and hard off of it.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
~Galatians 4:4-5 (emphasis mine)
Chapter 2 of the Green Letters is simply titled “Time.” And this has everything to do with Advent. In the waiting we remember what it was like before the Incarnation and think upon the days of old. The hope-filled anticipation for the fullness of time and God to be born of a virgin. For Hope itself to come. Emmanuel. God with us. The embodiment of Redemption…once-for-all Atonement and that Resurrection Power able to set right the deepest darkness in a world gone wrong.
But there was much time before He came and there is much time before all that is good. Truly good.
“…God does not hurry in His development of our Christian life. He is working for and from eternity!” ~The Green Letters, p. 13
And in these days of Advent Reflection, I am cut to the heart. For, I bear a thorn in my side rooted in an unbelief that fuels impatience and impetuousness and frustration and anger and a thousand evils…Oh, if I could but trust that in that fullness of time the truly good will come. Good that is born from eternity and will last through eternity.
“Since the Christian life matures and becomes fruitful by the principle of growth (2 Peter 3:18), rather than by struggle and ‘experiences’ much time is involved.” p.14
This is why the wilderness wanderings were forty years. The generation of unbelief needed to die and all of their struggle and experiences that brought them no closer to Yahweh. This is why the years were few of a united kingdom and glorious kings and they were many of division, captivity and ruin. The time was peeling away all hope in a seen world. The Lord was calling His people to know Him. Not His provision or gifts or even earthly freedom. But Him.
And this is why I can come back to the same thing and find it strong and ugly and wonder how I am there. again. Time does not become full unless He. is. in. it. Unless I allow Him to touch. heal. Redeem. Grow. Unless I surrender and lay it upon the altar of worship to the God who is. All. The. Good. I. Will. Ever. Know.
“Unless the time factor is acknowledged from the heart, there is always danger of turning to the false enticement of a shortcut via the means of “experiences,” and “blessings” p.14
This is why in the seasons of comfort and ease and blessing Israel forgot Him as the prophets re-count again and again. This is why the Red Sea crossing hallelujah was short-lived when immediate needs were not met. This is why they yearned to be slaves rather than to wait for Him.
This is why when our missionary support is abundant my heart grows layers of comfort and I trust in what I see. This is why I can love Him so well in the midst of a worship service and speak unkindly to my husband soon after. I am enticed by the stuff and forget Him who wants all of me. Every thought, moment, word devoted to Him.
But it is hard to wait. And there is no definable date or hour to a time that is full. And in the waiting I can’t see and times are dry and days I barely make it make me doubt His work.
quoting Graham Scroggie “Spiritual Renewal is a gradual process. All growth is progressive, and the finer the organism, the longer the process…And it is from day to day. How varied these are! There are great days, days of decisive battles, days of crisis in spiritual history, days of triumph in Christian service, days of the right hand of God upon us. But there are also idle days, days apparently useless, when even prayer and holy service seem a burden. Are we, in any sense, renewed in these days? Yes, for any experience which makes us more aware of our need of God must contribute to spiritual progress, unless we deny the Lord who bought us.” ~ p.15
And so, it is the faithful who wait. It is the Hallowed Hall of Hebrews 11 . These are the great cloud of witnesses that guide us in our Advent waiting. They each looked forward to The Day. To the coming of a Glorious King. The Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. They spent their entire lives waiting. And we remember them as a part of our history as the Redeemed. And we remember them as we wait now. We wait for a fullness of time. A maturing of the good that only comes after waiting. The right kind of waiting that trusts and hopes and believes.
We wait together…