This is a year that seems to have been about waiting. Waiting for the end of lockdown. Waiting to see how Brexit will pan out. Waiting for paperwork to be processed. Waiting for confirmation of whether training could go ahead in person. Waiting for discernment, our own and other people’s. Waiting for news of a vaccine. Waiting for election results to be confirmed.
What is the work of waiting in our lives, I wonder? I mean, in what ways does waiting form us?
This weekend will mark the beginning of another time of waiting, the season of Advent. This is the time of year when we rehearse the story of Messiah and the generations of waiting that led, ultimately, to his arrival. Given our own experiences of waiting over recent months, I was especially struck when I re-read what Luke wrote about Simeon in his account of Jesus’ birth:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel”
How astonishing, that a man who had been waiting so long for the fulfilment of a word he thought was from God should still have such a sense of hope-filled expectation within him that, when he finally held the infant Jesus in his arms, he was able to recognise in him the fulfilment of that long-awaited promise.
I wonder if - after the ups and downs of disappointed expectations and extended delays - I am finally able to recognise and receive in faith and delight that for which I have been waiting?
During Advent, we enter into this experience of waiting. Indeed, waiting is a posture that marks us as the people of God. Yes, the Christ and his salvation have appeared. And yes, we continue to wait for the full and final reconciliation of all things to God through him. We do not wait alone, but just as we ‘groan inwardly as we wait’ so ‘the creation waits in eager expectation (and) has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time’ (from Romans 8). I don’t know about you, but over the course of the past year I have certainly ‘groaned inwardly’ and imagined I could almost hear the mountains and the trees groaning with me.
So how might we enter into this season of waiting with intention, the better to process our own waiting in the light of the larger story? There are so many Advent resources out there, it is not always easy to pick one. A number of friends have asked me to recommend my favourites, and I thought I would make a note of a few here. I have listed six firm favourites and why they might appeal ... be sure to let me know which ones you tried and what the practice meant to you!