Advent is a time of waiting. I have been told that since childhood. But as I’ve read thru the Bible (several times now), I’ve come to realize that waiting is not just part of Advent. Waiting is and always will be part of life with God. There are at least 8 places in the Psalms (depending on which translation you read) where a psalmist writes about “waiting” for God (For example, “Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way – Psalm 37:34). There are another 10 verses in the prophets where the prophet instructs the people of Israel to wait for God (“Those who wait for the Lord , shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles” – Isaiah 40:31), or where God speaks thru the prophet telling the people to wait for God (“Wait for me,” says the Lord, “for the day when I arise as a witness.” – Zephaniah 3:8).
So, waiting is part of faith, since God’s timing is not our timing. As Jesus told his disciples just before he ascended to heaven, “It’s not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.”
During Advent, the waiting is a bit different. And yet, still the same. During Advent we spend 4 weeks waiting for the day we’ve set aside to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. So, we know that our waiting will come to an end. We wait for 4 weeks and a few days. Then we’ll again see the fulfillment of God’s promise with the birth of Jesus.
But the waiting is also still the same, for we are also waiting for Christ’s return and for the Kingdom of God to be realized here on earth. We wait, not knowing when we will be able to rejoice in the peace of the Kingdom. And that’s why I like to think of Advent as a time of practice. A time that can help us realize the importance “waiting” has in our relationship with God, and in our living life in God’s time, instead of our own.
Living in our world today, we spend a lot of time waiting, but sometimes it becomes a “depressive” waiting – we wait to see something meaningful in the midst of all the loneliness and poverty and sickness and death that seems so prevalent in our world. We wait for an end to violence in our streets and our schools and in nations where war seems to go on forever. We wait for an end to the greed and inhumanity of individuals and nations. And it can seem like the waiting will never end and the Kingdom will never come.
But the scriptures remind us that we don’t wait alone. The psalmist who also waited begins with these words from the heart: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord…I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” (Psalm 130:1,5). He or she seems to know something of how we humans all get trapped in our own darkness and dark places. But the psalmist turns his/her attention to that which brings relief and comfort as we wait: The coming of the Lord and the promise of his forgiving Word.
In the midst of our waiting, the Lord, our still speaking, still acting God comes, just as He did in the first Advent. In the darkness of night, which we like the shepherds know all too well, He came as a gift of hope. And in hope-filled faith we claim that this same Christ who came for us all, is with us always, even to the end of the age. And someday, He will usher in a new world, where “the wolf will live with the lamb…for all the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.”
So, we wait for that day, in faith and with hope, trusting that our active, living God will raise up the right people at the right time, and the Kingdom of God WILL come to earth…in God’s time.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have a part to play in the work of God’s coming Kingdom. Ours is never a “laying around” waiting. God still calls us to “actively” do the work of growing the Kingdom in small but meaningful ways – helping a neighbor, feeding and housing the homeless, sheltering the abused, welcoming the alien, standing up for the oppressed. And that means Advent is a time for each of us to awaken to the truth that we are one of the “right people” God has raised up in this time, to help fulfill God’s plan in God’s time.
Happy waiting! — Pastor Mark
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13-14