We started the season of Advent - the season of waiting. It is a season full of symbolism and history. Traditionally we enter a time of expectant waiting and preparation for Christmas, celebrating the arrival of Christ our Savior, as well as awaiting his return. At the same time, all of us bring memories, experiences and expectations from the past, both joyful and painful, which color our experience of Advent and Christmas. For some of us, Advent is a very busy time of the year, and we hardly find time to stand still and wait.
In our western worldview we struggle with waiting. Maybe, we are simply not used to it in our fast-lived, instant result oriented and often rationalistic lives. Or we might prefer the distractions of our busyness and sometimes hectic hustling around. Watching my children live towards Christmas reminds me that waiting, tough difficult, can be joyous. And at the same time, for many, waiting is a painful concept we rather avoid.
During Advent, we remember how the people of Israel waited for the arrival of the promised Messiah. They were waiting for a long time… We speak about the 400 silent years in between the last of the Old Testament prophets and the birth of Christ. During those years there was hardship, war and strive. Several empires invaded and occupied the land. The people of Israel could only wait and hope.
We might not be waiting for a political leader throwing out a foreign empire. We might be waiting for very different things. I guess that most of us carry things in our hearts and soul, waiting for God to intervene. What do we carry in our hearts, that make us feel heavy? What promise are we longing for to be fulfilled?
Whatever it is we are waiting for in our lives, waiting draws us into two opposites. We either tend to live in the past - looking back of the moments, people and happenings that brought us to a place we find ourselves waiting. Or we live in the future - thinking that once we received what we are waiting for, life will perfect. Waiting does something to us. It leaves us powerless. As we wait, we are not the ones in control. We are waiting for someone or something else to come to us. Being powerless in our waiting very often makes us believe that that we don’t matter to God. After all, He could intervene, heal, answer, guide, or do any of the other things we are waiting for…And in seasons of waiting we encounter silence - which we interpret as absence of God.
And this painful belief touches the very core of our relationship with God.
At times, however, being powerless and without any control is exactly where we need to be. God is present in our waiting, in the "not yet" and He knows about it. Painful as it may be, we are invited to encounter God’s presence in exactly those circumstance we long to be finished with. Do we dare to ask God if we really matter to Him? How would that look like? How would that impact our prayers?
The Advent season is an invitation to intentionally make time to be still and wait. It is an invitation to carve out time and space so that we are able to pay attention to the places we are waiting for Christ to speak into. It is an invitation to move away from waiting for Christ to appear to waiting with Christ who is Emmanuel - GOD WITH US. In Advent, we are living towards Christmas - the quiet, almost unnoticed proclamation that yes, we do matter to God.
How about you? What are you waiting for and, more importantly, how are you waiting? What do your prayers look like during this Advent season?
Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash