During Advent, I generally add to devotional reading books, poems, and reflective articles that cause me to pause and think. The essence of Advent that has been lost in a culture that never stops is learning to wait. We have lost the art of patient self-reflection. We have traded introspection for over connection. We have never been more connected yet more alone than we are right now. We in our hurried age with hurried souls need the Advent season to slow us to remember and focus on what is really life.
Celebrating Advent means learning how to wait. Waiting is an art which our impatient age has forgotten. We want to pluck the fruit before it has had time to ripen. Greedy eyes are soon disappointed when what they saw as luscious fruit is sour to the taste. In disappointment and disgust, they throw it away. The fruit, full of promise rots on the ground. It is rejected without thanks by disappointed hands. The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come.
Bonhoeffer is saying that those who can not wait never experience the fulfillment of a promise. Advent is the reminder that we don’t have all that we need in our gifts and abilities. We need God’s help we need rescue. Waiting on a word from God is not something we do well. Listening is not a skill that most people excel in. We must learn to wait on God, wait for a word from Him. Advent is a season of recalibration where we are reminded that doing the most things isn’t the most important thing. That the Messiah doesn’t come in the way or in the form, you would expect.
Waiting challenges our expectations our presuppositions and makes us beggars of truth rather than dispensers of it. Waiting teaches us that our desires and petitions find their fulfillment in seeing God revealed in a baby. Even though scripture doesn’t give us much detail on the years between Jesus’ birth and his ministry, I think the silence of scripture magnifies the truth that even when the Messiah was here he waited until it was his time. Likewise, we must wait. Waiting for the Messiah is something that we have done since the promise of the snake crushing seed was given to our first father and mother. Seven hundred years before Christ the promise was renewed by the prophets telling us not to lose heart the Messiah was coming he was on his way. The people of Isaiah’s day waited for the coming Messiah. It is that coming that we celebrate. It is for that coming that we recreate that sense of longing and waiting for the Advent of Christ for which so many of the true offspring of Abraham patiently endured. We don’t just remember and imagine the longing they must have felt in waiting for the fulfillment of every promise. We wait. We wait for the final Advent of Christ his second coming that was promised to us by Christ himself that is confirmed to us by Scripture.
There is so much we miss in our anxious living. There is so much we fail to see in our busy lives. Waiting. Sitting in an empty room, worshiping together in our place of worship reminded us that Advent is not about our needs but in Christ’s coming. It is in our waiting that we discover life as it really is. True life is found in waiting.
We know that we cannot go to God, but God comes to us, enfolding us in his unbelievable grace, otherwise, our life is lost, and our waiting is in vain. We can only wait, watchfully wait; that means passionately waiting, totally deaf to those who would sow doubts in our mind, blind to every power that stands between us and that future which God wills for us.
We in so many ways have turned the American Dream into our creed and have criticized our kids in the thinking that bigger is always better than more is better than less, that we are always the head and never the tail. Jesus message that he both proclaimed and embodied was radically different than that. He said the way up is down the first is the last and the last is the first. He said and modeled by the way if you want to be the greatest you must be the servant of all.
The waiting servant expects everything, everything from God. Yes, he expects God himself and gives glory to him. He wants nothing for himself, all for God. Only the waiting servant is open, ready for anything. Only such can go from Advent to Christmas. Blessed are those who wait.
This Advent we wait in prayer and thanksgiving for the first Advent and patient, prayerful expectation of the final Advent. Our prayer is “Lord come quickly, and Lord help us to wait.” Not a passive waiting but an active waiting on God that sees him as he truly is.