Haven’t we all been waiting for something lately – like some good news on a vaccine, or waiting for election dramas to be put to rest, or waiting for school plans to unfold, or waiting for better news about your friend’s health? I’ve never been very good at waiting, but I’ve come to see this year that waiting doesn’t have to be wasted time.
Waiting unmasks us and points to wondering what we most desire in this life, what really matters to us. It is good to clarify what makes for our deepest longings in this world – not just for us but for the whole human family who are waiting for the same things.
Advent is the four-week season in the Church leading to Christ’s birth at Christmas. Advent is about waiting, even longing for Christ (who is already here) to arrive anew. For he is intent to remind us again what matters: to wake us from the sleepy seduction where we only grasp for more stuff and more entertainment.
Here’s some help in a great little video on what it looks like to be fully awake while waiting in Advent. It runs about 30 minutes, and is full of wisdom to help us enliven these four weeks readying us for God’s big news at Christmas. Here’s the link: The Work Of The People – Adventus – The Work Of The People
Perhaps it is in our acts of waiting where God is trying to get our attention. Perhaps waiting isn’t just coasting-in-limbo, but is where it occurs to us to live on-purpose, acting out our best values, our best selves. For while we wait, we can invest in a world worth waiting for. And how fine a thing it is that we actually get to invest in that world. Jane and I have become clearer, due to this year, on our need to invest in causes like NAACP and girls’ education in developing countries. Waiting through this pandemic has pushed us to clarify what we value. Here we are about to enter a Christmas season like none other. What if all our gift-giving this year was about investing in a better world we’ve been waiting for – the one that seems to show up on Jesus’ wish list – where the poor hear an encouraging word, the blind get to see, the imprisoned and the trafficked are liberated.
I appreciate Nicholas Kristof who writes for the New York Times. Every year he pens a column on how to let our holiday gift giving contribute to a better world. Check out this year’s article here for some excellent ideas – Opinion | Choose a Gift That Changes Lives – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
One gift this quarantine is giving us is breathing space to consider the arrival of Christ’s in-breaking. Social distancing beneath a winter night sky is a perfect place for this to happen. Perhaps bring a candle along to remind yourself you are waiting on Something Big.
Consider the bible’s Nativity story, where different characters made room for the forever incoming arrival of Christ in their own way. For the shepherds and angels, it was ecstatic joy and loud revelry out in a field. But for young Mary, it was pondering quietly in her heart all that God was doing, and her Yes to it. One is not better than the other – shouting or pondering – so why not give voice to both over these Advent weeks. Let us ponder what it means that God who is beyond all time and space enters history in a scandalously peculiar manner, in a body like ours, in a poor family (by our standards), but showing what really big love looks like, in ways that change the world, our world, including the world we’ve been waiting for.
Awake while waiting,