I have never been very good at waiting. Procrastination I have mastered, but waiting—and doing it happily—has never been my strong suit. Therefore, I have in the past missed the beautiful gift of, well, the present.
I used to feel shame about this, as if there was something diminished about my abilities or, worse, about my essential character. Largely, however, I have come to understand that my primary socializing community does not do well, itself, with waiting.
Yep, I’m talking about the church.
For those of you who don’t know, I am Baptist. Where our particular flavor of Christianity has done very well to instill in me fierce resolve to go with Christ before all, it has not taught me how to wait. It is just not a thing we have emphasized.
And yet, waiting is a necessary part of life. In the very least, it is a reality of life. I would venture to say it is a reality of my faith too.
Advent is a time of waiting, and I am learning a lot this season.
Let me back up. In the last half decade or so I have been increasingly wooed by the Liturgical Year, which deals a lot with waiting.
It is difficult to pinpoint the beginning of this fascination, but I know that its rising coincided with God’s Kingdom moving from a far off pie-in-the-sky to a come and coming Reality. The Kingdom of God is about God’s reign coming “on the earth as it is in heaven. “
In this paradigm, churches, faith communities, individuals, and families become something like outposts of Jesus' Way.
And living Jesus’ Way has a different culture and rhythm than the world.
The Liturgical Year—a gift from the faithful before us—helps with that rhythm. It is a drumbeat with which to keep time. A set of trail markers on the Way. A communal dance that re-members us all.
The Year is a Great Story that Christians get to live, year in and year out.
The evangelical in me wonders, "Hey, isn’t the Gospel supposed to be all of those things?"
The Year tells the Gospel.
The Year spreads the Good News over 365 days of REAL LIFE, beckoning the church to recognize the sacred nature of time and matter. Our bodies, homes, and hours become cathedrals, pulpits, and altars.
Throughout the Year, Christians rehearse, explore, and engage anew God’s Story every day—even as the Story unfolds in us.
And, so, in Advent…we wait.
Which is really what being a Christian is all about—awaiting Christ’s coming and preparing to welcome Him.
As we adopt the orphan, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry, we help creation ready itself for Jesus’ Big Day.
Advent, the first season, is built to help us remember our first mission: to wait, keep watch, and prepare the way of the Lord.
The world does not want to wait.
Mercy, there were carols and Christmas-everything in stores the day after Halloween (ALSO part of the Year!). The world says eat lots of food, get lots of stuff, hurry and scurry, but have a good time / BEHAPPY / makethismeaningfulforyourchildren / don’tforgetgiftsforsoandso / buybuybuy / CHAOS / DEBT / STRESS—
You know, everything I am sure the Prince of Peace would like to find upon His return…*sarcasm*
This Baptist testifies that it is difficult to resist consumerism’s colonization of Advent and Christmastide. Even with my best intentions, sentimentalism can creep in.
The Year offers the help of generations upon generations of faithful sisters and brothers for such a time as this. The four candles of Advent flicker hope, peace, joy, and love, illuminating paths of preparation, repentance, and active waiting for our King.
There are TWELVE WHOLE DAYS of Christmastide, and imma enjoy every. single. one.
But not right now. Right now I wait.
I turn my ear to Mary and Elizabeth to learn about anticipation and faithfulness. I sit with Zechariah and reflect in silence before God. I wrestle shame, expectation, and trust with Joseph.
Christmas still comes whether we wait or not, but there is grace in Advent.
I, of all people, am learning to WAIT.