As this week is the start of Advent Phil has been thinking a lot about waiting…
Those of us who have or have had children will know that long journeys can be challenging and exhausting. This is especially true when we have to endure “Are we nearly there yet?” after only having travelled a couple of miles of a long journey. If there was a similar phrase in New Testament times I’m sure the early church would have been directing it at God. They had been waiting, praying, desiring The Lord’s return. What was going on? Why was He taking so long? There have been many times in history when Christians must have felt that surely this was the time, surely the Lord was returning and yet we are still waiting. The cry ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ is frustrated and helpless but the waiting Jesus speaks of in Luke 21 is a watchful, expectant, waiting. There is something active about the waiting we are being called into. The Message translation puts it succinctly, – “be on your guard, don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties, and drinking, and shopping”
Hmm – does that not sound like many people’s Advent leading up to Christmas?!
We are not good at waiting. My experience of waiting is that it’s tiring. Queuing for instance is frustrating and boring. I wonder how many times I have seen a queue and have decided just not to bother. And of course waiting can cause anger. Living in community we sometimes experience “Toast rage” during the breakfast buffet.
We live in a culture where waiting is not encouraged or fostered – John Sentamu, Archbishop of York wrote, “We are encouraged to take the waiting out of wanting, cut to the chase and get what we want right away, as though there is nothing worth waiting for.”
This impatient waiting is not the patient waiting that Jesus talks about. Henri Nouwen writes, “The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full belief that something hidden will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her womb” (The Path of Waiting)
Psalm 27 puts it nicely,
“I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for The Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
The Advent season of anticipating Christmas is an ideal time to foster the spiritual discipline of waiting. A waiting that is not passive, but expectant, dynamic and active, living in and making the most of the present moment. Not restlessly dashing after something which likely isn’t there, but being attentive to the subtle possibilities of the here and now. This discipline is vital in our walk with Jesus throughout our lives.
Watch this space for more posts and to find out more information about events taking place at Scargill click here to check out the programme.