First Sunday of Advent
"Waiting With Intention "
For New Yorkers, waiting seems like a total waste. There are deadlines, appointments, meetings, phone calls, and a million other things that could be happening in the meantime. Waiting is dead space, an emptiness that has to be filled with something else. Look how often we have complained about quarantining, even when we have TV, books, phones and many other distractions. It still feels empty and boring.
But aren’t there different kinds of waiting? With so many people sick, what kind of waiting happens until they feel better? Behind the loss of energy, people are sharply alert to even the smallest signs of getting better—did the fever go down, am I breathing easier, did the cough stop?
A different kind of waiting, yet, is that done by people in hospice. What could be a very empty and frightening space gets filled by the care that different people show, the nurses and care givers, the friends and family members. Space that could be empty is filled by freely given care.
Think of the kind of waiting I imagine a pregnant woman is doing, especially as she detects signs of the new life that is growing within her. This kind of waiting is not emptiness, is not dead time, but rather something like expectation, anticipation. She can feel the goal of her waiting right inside of her. She’s not waiting alone; she is waiting with . . . with her family, her friends, and especially with the baby whom she sustains by her body.
What kind of waiting will Advent be for us? Certainly for many in our culture, the time before Christmas is frantic with many of us going down our lists of things we have to do until we arrive at Christmas, nearly exhausted. We feel the impatience of Isaiah who cries out: O that you would tear heaven apart and come down to save us right now! It feels like a child who can sense that new and much-desired toy, who can’t wait to tear apart the ribbon and the wrapping.
Jesus uses a special word for the waiting he asks us to do: “Watch” he says. Watching is waiting with intention. Watching is knowing that something is coming and keeping alert for the slightest signs of its arrival. Watching is waiting in such a way that the waiting shapes us, helps prepare us, and makes us ready for the very thing we expect. Instead of emptiness, the waiting of Jesus is filled with purpose, with suspense, with readiness.
This Advent, we can wait this way because, in a sense, all of creation also waits with longing and expectation. God built a dynamic force into creation, built it into us, so that the reality of God might grow within us, until it comes to expression in Christ Jesus. We are not waiting alone. Not only does all creation wait with us, but Jesus himself waits alongside of us, working toward the fullness of his coming at the end of time.