“You can either wait on God or wish you had.”
Advent is both a season of celebration and waiting. In homes, the Advent calendar (with its daily allotment of chocolates) and in churches, the Advent evergreen wreath (with its coloured candles) are dusted off and set in their hallowed places. These heart-warming symbols telegraph the approaching Christmas Day and also invite us to a period of waiting. Inherent in this waiting is an expectation to muse, to reconnect our hearts with what is genuinely of substance in life. As disciples of Jesus, Advent invites us to align ourselves with the values and mission of the incarnate Holy One. Here is an opportunity to reignite our worship and recapture Immanuel’s joy, peace and hope.
2020 will break new ground for us, a pandemic Advent. We enter the season with an intangible, yet palpable, heaviness – the weight of engaging with uncertainty, fear, anxiety and a long list of trampled hopes. Even the future landscape appears bleak in light of the past year’s terrain. Like much of Canada today, the citizens of ancient Israel were trudging through their own journey of gloom. Isaiah described them as “a people walking in darkness (9:2).” Social, political and religious behemoths were crushing hopes and suffocating dreams. In their desperation they were given a prophetic word of great joy, a supernatural foreshadowing that their gloom would be lifted, and a glorious light would dawn. For the people of God, it was Advent, a waiting for divine revelation in the form of a just and righteous Messiah.
Jesus the Christ has come and now our Advent is not one of waiting for his incarnation, but rather, in the fullest sense, a waiting for his triumphant end time return. However, in this ‘not yet’ space, it is a waiting for his Spirit to bring a renewal of hope, joy and peace in the milieu of all that is a part of our 2020 and 2021. The predicament is that in our culture of rush and hurry, where instant everything is the demand, waiting upon God is hard-pressed to have room in our lives. Such waiting is not a passive activity, it is not sitting back and twiddling one’s thumbs. Waiting is biblical, a spiritual disciple and frankly, the wise response of a healthy disciple. God uses our waiting to reveal himself. If we open our hearts, as the young prophet Samuel did (“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”), he works transformation and restoration. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Advent creates people, new people.”
• Wait with anticipation – God is poised to act.
• Wait with expectation – God is blessed by faith.
• Wait with thanksgiving – God is worthy to receive it.
• Wait with humility – God will lift up.
In this season let us wait, trusting that our ever-present Messiah has got us and our circumstances in his sovereign grip. Let us wait, believing that the king of peace is able to meet us at the nexus of our worries, fears and failures. Let us wait, because we can do little else. Let us wait, because, when we do, he is the God who will redeem. During this pandemic Advent, as you strike off the days on your Advent calendar and light one more candle on the church Advent wreath, hear afresh the psalmist’s cry of faith, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him (Psalm 62:5).”