In the Midst of Waiting, I Can Still Rejoice
by Phyllis Myung | December 15, 2021
“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel,” the singer sings with a tinge of melancholy, expectation, and subtle hopefulness. I listen to this hymn every week throughout Advent to remember that in the midst of waiting, I can still rejoice.
The practice of waiting doesn’t come easily to me. I like to know what to expect, when to expect it, and how to process what I am expecting. I like having a plan and knowing things with a fair amount of certainty. I can even be extremely patient in my waiting—if I know what’s coming and when.
When I reach the end of the Old Testament, I often think about the Israelites and try to imagine what they might have been thinking during those 400 years between the events of the Old and New Testaments. For me, it would have felt crushing and hopeless with cries of, “How long, O Lord?” and the daily incessant nagging question of, “Will today be the day that our Messiah comes?” I don’t know if I would have been able to rejoice in that waiting.
I find myself in a similar place today, though. I have found myself asking, “How long, O Lord?” frequently in these past two years. My family has experienced great losses as well as heartbreaking injustice. We have been confronted with the realities of racism in places we thought were safe. I find myself experiencing this season of Advent with an aching heart that feels crushed while walking along the edge of disappointment with more frequency than I would like.
In the midst of my own darkness where I cannot find the light, I am reminded that the light has come to us already and continues to be with us.
Where and how do you find space to rejoice when it feels like you cannot find the light? Or when it feels uncertain and every part of your world is broken beyond repair?
I don’t know.
But maybe that’s okay—we don’t have to have the answers. It is in these moments where we realize our human brokenness and limitations that we find God with us—Emmanuel. This is where I find the beauty of Advent. It is in the ritual or tradition of lighting a candle each week to remember who has come and still is to come. We discover the truth of John 1:9: “The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (NLT). In the midst of my own darkness where I cannot find the light, I am reminded that the light has come to us already and continues to be with us. This light cannot be extinguished, but even more than that, this light came to us and became like us.
Jesus is with us with a lived empathy. Jesus is and has been beside us, carrying us, holding us, and shining the light upon us. When I don’t feel like I can find the light, or I feel the heavy weight and discomfort of uncertainty, and experience the fracturing of my world, I repeat the words of the hymn to myself, inserting my own name, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Phyllis!” God with us comes to us, becomes like us, and gives light to us. Every week of Advent, I embrace and cling to this promise while asking God to open my eyes and my heart to see and experience the light and life-giving Christ in all moments, especially in the ordinary and difficult ones.
Maybe like me, this Christmas season has been mired in weariness and heaviness for you. My hope for us all is that Christ’s light will shine in a way that we will be able to see it and that Emmanuel—God with us—will be tangibly felt in all the depths of our weary and heavy hearts. And as we are embraced by Christ who has come and is still to come, may our hearts sing in earnest, “Rejoice! Rejoice!”