How many more days until Christmas? If you're a parent, you've probably been asked that question a few times now. Waiting is tough, isn't it? And waiting for Christmas reminds us of another wait we've got going on - this one's tougher. You see, we're not just waiting for December 25th to celebrate when Jesus came the first time. We're waiting for him to come again and take us to be with him, to destroy all our problems and keep all his promises. We're waiting. And sometimes we struggle with that.
So James tells us today to wait...patiently. The text starts with this command: "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming." And then he gives all sorts of reasons to wait patiently. First, he points to the promises - the ones God always keeps. He compares us to the farmer who knows the crop is coming in, but just has to wait for the proper time - understanding that patience is required and that not everything will be perfect as we wait.
Then he speaks of how impatience won't help anyone - grumbling does nothing but defeat our purposes and harm our relationship with each other and with God. Then James points us to all the people of the past who trusted God's promises and saw how powerfully God came through even when it looked like it would never work - from Elijah to Elisha, from Joseph to Daniel to Job. Waiting patiently on God worked out for them - it will work out for us.
Then, our text ends with that greatest of all reasons to wait patiently. Verse 11: "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." That's whom we're waiting for. Think about that - a compassionate and merciful God. What a beautiful thing. In fact, this description of the one we're waiting for is so special and so specific that this is the only time this word occurs in the Bible. Literally, it says that the Lord is "many gutted," we might say "many hearted." The guts were seen as the seat of emotion, the place where that pit of the stomach aching comes from when you watch your child suffer or where the butterflies flutter when you catch the eye of that special someone across the room. The splanxna (a little Greek for you) or guts were the description of that heart reaching concern and compassion, that pure love with all the excitement and passion our souls can contain. Now the Lord is described as having many of those for us.
And we saw those guts the first time he came, didn't we - as he humbled himself to enter our world through the birth canal of a teenage girl, as he grew to be the man whose heart went out to the people who were lost like sheep without a shepherd and so he fed them even when he wanted to be alone to grieve the loss of his good friend and forerunner. We saw that gut-love when Jesus touched the leper no one would come near and spoke to the sinners everyone else shunned. We saw his guts when he stepped in front of that mob and offered himself so long as they let his followers go free. We saw his compassion when he took my guilt and my impatience and my grumbling to the Garden of Gethsemane, into the High Priest's courtroom, through Pilate's chambers, and out to the cross where he paid for it and prayed for you and me - from the bottom of his heart - "Father forgive them for they don't know what they're doing." Yes we've seen his guts. We've seen his heart. We've seen his love. This is the one coming back for us. So just wait...patiently. It will be worth it.