I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130:5-6, NIV)
Suggesting that Advent is about waiting––that it is a period of time for us to recognize the ways that the people of God have waited on God through the centuries, and for us to follow their lead and wait on God ourselves––is likely to raise our defenses in some ways. In conversation with others, I have never heard anyone respond to a question about what kind of things they like to do with an answer along the lines of, "One of my favorite hobbies is just...waiting on things." We view waiting as an interruption into our plans of how things should go. Our attitude toward waiting reminds me of a comment from my son when he was about three years old. He was playing with some toys in his room when I asked him to help me clean up some of the clothes he had scattered around on his floor. Without looking up from his toys, he said, "Sorry, that's not one of my specialties."
It's easy for us to react that way when we talk about waiting on God. Better to leave that kind of thing to the professionals, we think. Then, throw into the mix that this series of Advent devotionals has waiting as its theme, and I would be surprised if some of us have not already subconsciously decided that we may keep reading, but probably won't actually do anything that gets suggested as a way of waiting on God. Ruth Haley Barton observes, "Most of us are not very good at waiting. We want what we want, and we want it yesterday. We want it on our own terms, just like we envisioned it....When there is something we need, having to wait for it puts us in a position where we are not in control....This is a necessary and yet very humbling aspect of ordinary life and of the spiritual life."(1)
I think there's also another reason why none of us is eager to develop waiting as one of our specialties: when we talk about waiting on God, we may initially nod our heads in agreement while at the same time only having a hazy idea of how anyone might attempt it. We wonder, what exactly is it that we're supposed to do?
Fortunately, there is a specific, practical answer to that question, and we will spend the remainder of this week exploring it. My hope is that doing so will give each of us a concrete idea of how we could go about waiting on God, and hopefully even make a plan to do so for the rest of Advent. We'll get into some specifics over the next few days, but for now, this question might point us in a helpful direction:
If I were to shape the next twenty-four hours of my life in a way that fosters my love for God and for other people, what would I do?
A Prayer for the Day:
O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*
A Prayer for the Week:
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer (1) Ruth Haley Barton, 2013 Advent Reflections.