"He has performed mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as He promised our ancestors." (Luke 1:51-55, NIV)
In my Bible college days, we used to act out important events highlighted in Scripture. My fellow Moodies may remember this, too. We’d march through the Red Sea and count the Twelve Spies, separate Judah from Israel, and watched the prophets speak. Then, at the end of the Old Testament, we’d put a finger to our lips and say, "400 years… silence."
The voice of God, through His prophets, was no more.
A few years ago I read an article about the slow and inefficient work of God. That phrase stuck to me like a shirt I'd try to shrug myself out of when it was just starting to fit. We were in the US, working hard to return to Ireland, and those days never quite turned out the way I thought they would either. Or maybe I knew it would hard; long and slow, insecure and unsteady. But I suppose I hoped for a surprise, for help to come from the mountains at the drop of a tweed flat cap. It didn't, at least not when I wanted it to. Instead, we rode the rhythm of time, of seasons, and as Advent came to a close, on the day after epiphany, we hopped on a plane to start the new year—and a new life—back on Irish shores.
So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Advent itself is like that: slow and inefficient.
Anna and Simeon were experts in this inefficiency, while an otherworldly actor played his part behind the scenes. They showed up day after day, lines ready, movements blocked. Still, God waited. He had a script held close to His chest. Notes scribbled in the margins, rearranging stage directions and tweaking the cast. No one would be an extra in His story, no plot-line left with unmanageable holes. And though time stood still and 400 years of silence passed, the most inefficient work of all would also be the most miraculous, the most holy, the best surprise in a quiet, lonely moment.
I, too, wait in a quiet, lonely moment. This time of year, hushed coughs and tired feet tend to fill the space around me. We are slow. We are inefficient. And some days, I feel like an extra, a small bit part, in a story I keep waiting to tell.
"Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you."
That, alone, is more than I can hope for.
A prisoner of hope, fit for restoration.
Waiting with you,
"Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." (Zechariah 9:12, NIV)
What bit part is God asking you to play during the Advent season? A quiet extra behind the scenes? Or maybe a town cryer, clearing the path for the Messiah?
Where have you seen the slow and inefficient work of Jesus come to fruition?