Perhaps one day I’ll have a wealth of wisdom to weave some spectacular advent reflection positioning you with ease ready for the Christmas season. Not today. Instead, today’s post comes from a more realistic place, for I must confess that I find it hard to engage with the Christian richness of the advent season. For me, remembering the heart behind Christmas can feel unnatural; something I have to fight for and create. But that’s why I’m here (typing and musing), because I want to think more about God this season, and in the midst I hope you find yourself thinking more about God too.
I wonder when in your life you’ve felt most patient? What was the most demanding time of waiting for you? Memories come to my mind of times I’ve been travelling home after a long stint overseas to find the final leg of my journey has been delayed (the injustice). Those weren’t my finest moments of patience. But that got me thinking, there seems to be lots of different kinds of waiting…
There’s impatient waiting, like I described and like I frequently feel when I stand cold at a bus stop, urging the bus to appear on the horizon.
There’s passive waiting, like killing time in an airport before you board a plane.
There’s fear-filled waiting, like sitting in a dentist’s lounge before your root canal.
There’s doubt-filled waiting, like worrying when somebody should have been home earlier but they haven’t arrived yet.
And then there’s ready waiting, like when you’ve finishing preparing for a dinner guest and your simply waiting for them to arrive.
For all those different kinds of waiting, something was coming, it was just a matter of when. The word advent means ‘coming’ and we Christians spend four weeks embodying postures of waiting throughout December. We use advent calendars to open numbered trap doors every day. Some wait to put up trees and decorations and to listen to Christmas music. We keep gifts wrapped and unopened in secrecy until the 25th. We wait to eat our Christmas dinners. In Churches all over the world candles are slowly lit one by one each week until Christmas day. For me, waiting this month looks like counting down the days until I fly home to see my family again (England, I’m coming for you soon). The four weeks of advent before Christmas are full of symbols to do with waiting as we relive the sense of waiting that God’s people had as they waited for their coming Messiah.
And yet, though Jesus did come and live and die and rise and ascend many years ago, we Christians today don’t find ourselves immune to waiting either. Yes, Jesus came, but yes also, Jesus is coming. Advent holds this beautiful symphony of different types of waiting: remembering when and why Jesus came, but also remembering the second coming and that we wait eagerly for Jesus to return and finish what He started. We humans get so fixated on the idea going to heaven when we die, but really we’re waiting for heaven to come to earth. God brought heaven to earth when Jesus came, but we wait for the true fullness of this.
This advent season, let us remember what type of waiting Christians are called to. It isn’t a frantic, worrisome, fear-filled waiting, nor is it a ‘sit back and relax’ passive waiting. We wait in eager, confident expectation. Not just the four weeks of advent, but every week of the year; every week of our lives. We embody readiness and trust. We behold preparedness and anticipation. We live out joyful preparation. For, baby Jesus came all those years ago as the true King of God’s people, establishing His kingdom here on earth, and we wait with hope-filled faithfulness knowing that Jesus will one day return, like He said He would.