Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Practice: Waiting

Lord knows I am not a patient person. I hate waiting. I am the person that will walk back and forth, looking for the shortest check-out line at the grocery store. Being stuck behind a slow driver on a two-lane highway fill my car with all sorts of colorful language.

I hate waiting. I suspect that is true of many people.

We are taught to be productive, to make good use of our time. In a world filled with commitments, our schedules are full to overflowing. Work, school, children, friends - there is always somewhere for us to get, something else for us to be doing, something to accomplish. And when we are stuck waiting, we are "wasting time."

Isn't that part of the frustration? There is somewhere to get, somewhere to go, something to do. We don't have the enough time to waste it standing around waiting.

And yet, that is precisely what Advent calls us to do - to come out to the wilderness with John the Baptist and wait.

Fittingly, this is what the people of God have done throughout our history. Abraham and Sarah are promised a child, and they grow impatient when it does not happen soon enough. When they try to take matters into their own hands and conceive through Hagar God reminds them, "Wait, I've got this."

Moses secures the freedom of the Israelites from Egypt, and they are ready to get back home, ready to come into the promised land. Instead, they head out into the wilderness where they wait - a chance for God to prepare them to come into the promise.

And now we enter into Advent, and we too receive the command: Wait. Like Abraham & Sarah, like Israel in the Wilderness, like Israel in Babylon, we have been called to the important work of waiting.

Yes, "important work of waiting." It is as we wait that we go about the work that the Baptist calls us to, preparing a path for the Lord.  The word “wait” carries with it meanings of “look for” and “expect.”

As we wait, we look for the coming Lord and the Kingdom. As we wait, we prepare expectantly for the advent of Emmanuel.

I have officiated at an inordinate number of weddings this year. Hours before the wedding service is scheduled to begin, I am at the church preparing. And while there, of course I run in to the bride- and groom-to-be. The are waiting: rushing around talking to friends and family, laughing, fixing hair and clothes, preparing their hearts for what is about to happen, getting all the last minute arrangements into place. Not a moment wasted in that waiting!

Or talk to a couple pregnant with their first child about waiting for the arrival of that child. There is a nursery to paint, cabinets to childproof, supplies to stock up on, and all sort of preparations for this huge change in their life. Not a moment wasted in that waiting!

Yes, we have busy schedules – especially this time of year. But there will be time to wait, I guarantee.

As you are standing in that long check-out line (and they are all long lines this time of year!), quit wasting time, there is important waiting to do! Say a prayer for the people in line around you and for those who do not have the luxury of buying a feast for their family.

Stuck in a traffic jam? Quit wasting time, there is important waiting to do! Give thanks that you have a car and someplace to get to.  Spend the time thinking on how you can generously share God’s love with those in need in your community.

Again and again there we will receive the gift of unexpected time this December. Quit wasting it, and get on with the important work of waiting!


  1. I can't say that I enjoy waiting, but I do enjoy anticipation which, sadly, always taking some waiting. And that's what I love about Advent, the anticipation. I'm happy to enjoy the festive atmosphere, whether of Hanukkah (my old neighborhood) or of Christmas (my new neighborhood), but I like the mild excitement of anticipating my own Christmas.

  2. Waiting takes on a whole new dimension when you're sitting in jail or prison. Life is one very long Advent and it often isn't pretty.

  3. Waiting can become the journey for those who live with chronic illness. This will be the fifth liturgical Advent that we have lived in "Invalid Time". . .perhaps this site can be a source of light in the darkness. Pray to the Lord for us.