A Reflection on the Worship and Sermon theme for Sunday, 12/3/17
What emotional response is initially stirred for you on seeing this word? Waiting. Is it enthusiasm? Dread? Excitement? Worry? Boredom? Impatience?
Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipating. It could reasonably prompt all sorts of responses.
We are waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. That could leave us either excited and hopeful, or frustrated and anxious, or some combination of these. We want God’s promises of justice and righteousness in the world, of joy, hope, peace and love. And we are frustrated that these things are so long delayed and so far from our grasp. We may also feel guilt at our complicity in their delay.
And it has been such a long wait, has it not? Let’s agree for argument’s take that “the arc of moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” (Theodore Parker, 1860s). The book of Hebrews catalogues some of the faithful who longed and looked and waited but did not see God’s kingdom come. Paul anticipated Jesus return within the first century as did the Gospel writers. But we live in the Already / Not Yet of God’s kingdom here and still to come.
Our waiting as God’s people is not passive. We wait with active (though not hyperactive) intention. We have prayed the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus taught us, so now we seek to live it out. We asked that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will be done, and now we lean in with our intellect and strength. We work as coworkers with God in the transformation of the world. We work while we wait.
Waiting comes with its own promise of blessing: “Those who wait on the LORD will have their strength renewed. They will mount on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) The combined disciplines of waiting in stillness and quiet before God in prayer and meditation along with waiting on God in service to the world will result in a life of fulfilment and flourishing for those who draw near to Jesus in this way. This is how Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, embraced the call of God upon their lives in expectant and active waiting.
I pray that each of us may grow in our ability to do likewise.
In the meantime, we recognize that there is darkness in and around us. Our active waiting helps to stir hope for ourselves and others. We remember that in our past light has shone in the darkness. We see glimpses of light even now. So we lean in with faith that light will continue to come and grow and cast out the darkness of the world. Until then, we wait in the darkness.