You Can Count On It

They were hoping to bring her home by Christmas. Now they’re just hoping for a travel date before February, when the Chinese government shuts down for a month. She will be two years old soon, and her parents and sister and two brothers would be counting down the minutes until she comes home—if they knew when that would be.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Few things capture the difficulty and earnestness of waiting like Israel’s waiting for the promised Messiah. Like the forerunner slaves waiting for God to get them out of Egypt, so first-century Jews yearned for a Messiah to rescue them.

The words to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” combine with a tune that almost sounds mournful, stirring up ideas of longing and reminding us of the centuries the Jews waited for the Messiah.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.”

For us, the last pages of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament announcement of a newborn King are only a page apart, so it’s easy for us to forget that for the people of Israel in Jesus’ time, it had been a 400-year wait.

Right on Time

Of course, they weren’t the first of God’s people to wait. Along with the slaves in Egypt, waiting for their deliverance, the Bible also tells us of Abraham and Sarah. God had promised them a son, an heir. They waited for a few years—many years, really—but then looked at their fading likelihood of parenthood and decided to help God save face. They figured there was no possible way He could actually keep His promise, so they tried to twist their idea of His plan into reality, inserting Sarai’s servant Hagar into their story. But Ishmael wasn’t the promised son.

The promised son wouldn’t come on Abraham and Sarah’s terms. His story wouldn’t be the way they would have written it if they could.

So they waited several more years, until the biological possibility of pregnancy was well past gone. And right on time, Isaac was born. Just like God had promised.

Not Always What We Expect

Like Abraham and Sarah and the slaves in Egypt, Israel waited. For a very long time.

Years upon years came and went. Rulers rose and fell, and Israel came under Roman rule. Like the four hundred years in Egypt, the Israelites endured four hundred years of silence. Waiting. With so many questions.

And right on time, just like God had promised, a Baby came.

This wasn’t what they had expected or asked for. They were looking for a conquering king to ward off Roman rulers. But that relief would only have been temporary–as it had been in all the centuries past.

Instead, God brought forever salvation from eternal misery.

They would still be under Roman rule for awhile, but they could be free of sin’s hold, of slavery to the sacrificial system, of the deepest and darkest kind of bondage. This was so much better than they had dared hope, but it wasn’t what they expected.

God did what He said He would do. He sent the promised Savior—His own Son—a much greater Gift than we could have ever imagined. At exactly the right time.

Always

They are still waiting for that travel date. Still waiting for when they can hold her and talk to her and watch her play.

God always keeps His promises—to work out everything that happens to us for our good (Romans 8:28), to do the things He says He will do (Joshua 23:14), to set the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). It never happens the way we would have written it, or on our timetable. As His plan unfolds, it probably won’t be the way we expected it, and maybe not even what we had asked for.

But He always keeps His promises. And they are always so much better than we could have guessed.

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