Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
From ‘Oh the places you’ll go’ by Dr Seuss
No one loves waiting – but it feels like life is full of it. Waiting ‘til we’re older, waiting for the weekend to come, waiting for mates who are running late, waiting on results from tests… Whether we like it or not waiting is part and parcel of life, especially at this time of the year.
Waiting can be pretty tedious. In fact, it’s so tedious that we do all we can in our culture to avoid it. Instant messaging and same-day deliveries help us reduce the waiting times between developing conversations or receiving online orders. Automation, technology and the internet have led us to expect that things can – and will be – done quickly, if not instantly, and we get frustrated when we’re put on hold, or can’t get the information we want right away.
But, is there something in the wait that we’re missing out on? At this time of year, the bit before Christmas that we call Advent, we’re encouraged to embrace the wait. The word advent literally means ‘coming’. Back in the first few centuries of Christianity, advent was a time of preparation for those who were hoping to be baptised. It was a time of expectation, training and preparation for a ‘coming’ new life.
Fifteen centuries later and most of us see the four weeks before Christmas as a time to get on our Christmas jumpers, sing a few carols and look forward to the big day. But, we still have to wait, and in fact, as followers of Jesus, we should be embracing the wait the whole year, not just the few weeks before Christmas.
The thing is, Christianity is all about actively waiting. This isn’t the kind-of passive waiting around to see if something might happen that Dr Seuss moans about in his poem. Active waiting is an embracing of the here and now. It recognises with faith – with immense belief – what is to come, but when we actively wait we do all we can to pull that future promise into the present.
Advent is all about the now, and the not yet. The in-between time. We know something good is coming, but it’s not quite here yet. But because we know the good stuff is coming we get excited, we celebrate and we look ahead. We embrace the reality that Christmas day is near and prepare the turkey, make the mince pies, wrap the presents and put on the Christmas tunes.
It’s an active waiting.
And following Jesus means we need to have that kind of advent faith all year. Jesus was born, lived, inspired and loved. Then he was rejected, beaten and killed. Lastly, he rose from the dead… but he also promised he will come again.
Our faith is a wait, but it’s an active wait… it’s one where we know that God’s promise is already, and will be, fulfilled.
We live in that time, the in-between time between his resurrection and his future coming – a time when justice and peace will be restored. Our faith is a wait, but it’s an active wait… it’s one where we know that God’s promise is already here, but it is also yet to be fully fulfilled.
So how do we actively wait? It’s a good question. The answer is simple. We do all we can to pull God’s promised future of love, compassion and justice into the here and now.
This is something that many persecuted Christians understand. Take the church in Syria. You’d think during a time of war, violence and terrorism, that the church could simply say ‘things are getting out of hand, let’s wait ‘til the situation improves before we start a new project in the community’.
But that isn’t the attitude at all. In fact, active waiting, or advent faith, doesn’t sit still. It doesn’t hang around while people are in pain and need help.
So, Pastor B’s church in Tartus are now continuing to support 12,000 families that have been affected by the war every month. It’s messy. People are hurting, scared and in danger. But the advent faith of the church is one of sacrifice and service. It’s a faith that is doing everything it can to pull God’s promises of peace, justice and reconciliation into the present.
It’s not perfect, it’s still a war-zone. We live in the now, but not yet, the in-between time. But, just as we know December 25th will eventually come around, just as we know that after the night comes day, we also know the promise will be fulfilled.
So, this advent, let’s embrace the wait, actively living out God’s future promise, sharing his love and light with new hope and passion.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.