I must admit, I’ve become a bit discouraged these last few weeks. Thanks to seminary training and years of pastoring, I can successfully spiritualize waiting and compare it to Advent, . But in the end I realized that our waiting is missing something. Advent has an end point – December 25, to be precise. Few things in life have such exact closure.
But today I realized I had forgotten the flip side of the Advent coin:
If Advent is a reminder that we must sometimes wait, then Christmas is a reminder that we won’t have to wait forever.
Like impatient children in the back seat, the prophets and psalmists cry out their refrain – “How long, oh Lord? Are we there yet?” And we join in the refrain sometimes, don’t we? Here are some questions I ask…
How long, oh Lord, will children have to die at the hands of others?
How long must we watch as our loved ones suffer with things like cancer, Parkinson’s, autism, Alzheimers?
How long will people in the world die because of starvation and poverty?
How long will it take your Good News to reach the ears (and change the lives) of every man, woman and child?
How long will we live in fear of earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes?
Here’s the Christmas reminder: God answers, just not the way we expect. Since we’re in the back seat, we can only see the back-seat view!
Rather, God’s answer to us is quiet but reassuring, constant and insistent:
“Not much longer now! Look, there! It’s happening, bit by bit. It’s not quite time for the “all-at-once,” but things are changing! Don’t you want to be a part?”
If Advent is a symbol of our spiritual journeys – stuck “between the already and the not-yet” – then I believe that our Advent Journeys will one day end with a Christmas that is a fitting conclusion to this mess. The waiting will be over, the mysteries revealed, the promises fulfilled. The very thought of it fills me with hope and wonder – one day, all of a sudden, the “not-yet” will be the NOW!
But in the meantime, there’s the waiting.
I don’t know what you’re waiting on. Like us, maybe you’re beginning to wonder if the resolution will ever come! The writer of Hebrews (specifically 11:13) reminds us of the hard truth – in many cases, we won’t see the answers to our questions in this lifetime.
But we press on. We raise our voices with the prophets, like back-seat children: “How much longer, oh Lord? Are we there yet?” And even as we raise our voice, we can hear God’s quiet and insistent answer. The answer whispered in the stable, it rumbled on the cross. But it still echoes on. When I ask my questions, like the ones above, I can already hear the answer echo back… and I think you can too. And that echo calls us to be a part of the answer that’s coming about.
As you celebrate in your own way these next few days, remember the glorious truth: If Advent is a reminder that we must sometimes wait, then Christmas is a reminder that we won’t have to wait forever.
(a quick word – we’ve published a few images on this page and our Flickr account, but we’ve posted lots of personal pics from the last two months on our facebook pages)