However, there is hope for us.As Christians, we have all sorts of models seeking to teach us the art of waiting. As with the Canterbury Tales, the cast of characters come to us throughout this Advent Season as we wait for the coming of the baby. Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah and Simeon emerge from the pages of Luke. Mary and Elizabeth dance, laugh, love and support one another during their pregnancies. Meanwhile, Zechariah, struck speechless, watches them, smiling and wondering and waiting the coming messiah and his lost and hoped for return to words and speech. Simeon is aging and wondering if he will live to see the Prince of Peace reign in his lifetime and yet he waits.
Mary and Elizabeth are feeling the kicks of their sons, the pulse of young deliverers growing inside them. They are living with a promise that nurtures them, grows in them, feeds them, and helps them to stay present where they are. For Mary and Elizabeth, waiting is not a movement from nothing to something. It is a movement from something to something more.
The secret to waiting is found in the ability to recognize the seed of promise growing within. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is THE moment. Being present in this moment that you have been given by God is not passive at all. It is being opened to all the sensory experiences all around you.
However, as we live into the present moment and open ourselves to sensory experiences all around us, we need to watch out that our waiting does not turn into wishing. We tend to wait for something very concrete that “we wish to have.” We say, “I wish that I could have a job. I wish the weather would be better. I wish the pain would go away.” Our waiting gets entangled in our wishes. Wishing tends to connect to our fears.
But, Elizabeth, Mary, Zechariah and Simeon were not filled with wishing. They were filled with hope. Hope is our trusting in God that something will be fulfilled. But, such fulfillment is according to God’s promises, not our wishes coming true.
In these days of descending darkness, as we approach the shortest day of the year and the birth of Christ in our lives, watch and pray. Wait upon God’s promises. Trust that God gives this moment, this hour, this day as a gift. Rest in the silence. Be filled in the stillness.
In waiting, in praying, I offer you this closing prayer, this abiding thought in the first hours of Advent’s coming. From John’s Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer, I offer this closing prayer as we long for Christ’s coming in the opening hours of Advent’s waiting time:
O Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until eventide. Inspire all my thoughts. Pervade all my imaginations. Suggest all my decisions. Lodge in my will’s inward citadel and order all my doings. Be with me in my silence and my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and the weariness of the evening; and give me grace at all times to rejoice in thy mysterious companionship. Amen. * A number of illustrations form today’s sermon were drawn from Henri Nouwen’s article, “Waiting for God,” found in the journal Weavings, 1982.