FORCED TO WAIT: AN ADVENT REFLECTION
Dear Friends in Christ,
During this Advent season I would like to share some reflections on “waiting as a prayerful season of anticipation” for the celebration of Christmas in a contemporary context.
Advent is a prayerful period of waiting; however we are not very good at that any more. Maybe we never were. In the modern age we get frustrated if we have to wait for any length of time.
Waiting feels like time wasted and who can afford to waste time these days? We have too much to do and every second counts.
However the Advent Season is all about waiting. During Advent, we’re reminded of all those centuries when God’s people awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises, the years of uncertainty, the time of doubt. This side of Christmas (post factum) it’s easy to think that this season is all about “arrival”, the birth of Jesus and that’s partly true. The story does find its climax in the coming of the Messiah. However let’s not forget the waiting that preceded Christ’s advent, the waiting that marked the time before Christmas, the waiting that God forced his people to endure.
Maybe a little time of waiting is a good thing. I know that’s a heretical thought for some of us but bear with me. Here are five things we can get from waiting. They probably won’t help the next time you are struck in traffic or on your way to an important event but I still think they are worth reflecting on.
WAITING REMINDS US WE ARE NOT
THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
It is so easy to get caught up in our own plans, convinced that everything we do is absolutely, crucially important. That’s part of what makes waiting so frustrating and so valuable. Being forced to wait gives us the opportunity to remember that other people have plans and priorities as well. We are not the focal point of the universe. That does not make our plans unimportant, but it does put them in perspective.
WAITING REMINDS US THE GOD IS IN CONTROL
At the very least, waiting forces us to realize that we are NOT in control and that can be a valuable opportunity to reflect on who is.
WAITING REMINDS US THAT LIFE IS A GIFT
Forced to sit at a stop light for several precious minutes, I have a choice. I can choose to grumble and gripe about the loss of my precious time, or I can remember that those very minutes were a gift God gave me so that I might have the opportunity to live for His glory. Sure that was not the way I had planned to use them-but that doesn’t change the gift.
WAITING REMINDS US THAT THE PRESENT MATTERS
Sometimes I think waiting frustrates us because we are too future oriented, always focused on what comes next. But what about now? Next is in God’s hands. Now is what we have. Done well, being forced to wait can be like watching a particularly spectacular movie scene in slow motion. You know the movie will continue playing at regular speed soon, but for now you’re just enjoying what is on the screen.
WAITING REMINDS US THAT THE FUTURE
IS BIGGER THAN WE THINK
Sometimes I think waiting frustrates us because we are not future-oriented enough. We try not to think about it much, but I think we all have a sense of our own mortality and it seeps out when we are forced are forced to wait. We have a finite amount of time, why waste any of it waiting for something to happen? But of course, our time is not finite. We are destined for eternity. That does not we can get complacent with the time we have now, but waiting can remind us that this life is part of something much larger. In the light of eternity, is a two minute wait at a grocery store really that onerous?
I think the Advent Season is a great opportunity to think differently about time. God made His people wait for centuries before he fulfilled his promises to them in sending the Messiah. And we have waited many more centuries since for the fulfillment of God’s redemptive promises in the Second Advent of the full realization of God’s kingdom. Why all the waiting? I can’t answer that question for sure. At the very least, though, the waiting reminds us that this is God’s story, his plan, and his promises. He is in control and will take this story wherever he pleases. It reminds us, slaps us in the face sometime, that we are not the center of the story. It’s not about us and things do not always go the way we want. Finally, all the waiting helps us think differently about the present and the future: valuing the present as a gift, cherishing the future as our ultimate hope.
Will that change the way you feel as you burn through the forty-five minutes waiting for the doctor to call you for your appointment? I don’t know. It might or it might not. But maybe it will give you the chance to view that time differently.