The Waiting Game

SCRIPTURE: Mark 13: 32-33

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 

Once again, we’re being told to wait.  Most of us don’t do that well.  We’re so accustomed to instant results and instant gratification.  We have become creatures dependent on microwaves, high-speed internets, and never-ending freeways.  We are used to getting what we need and what we want NOW.  We’ve seen that this year when we are being told to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and patiently wait for a Covid vaccine or for the virus to begin to subside.  But millions of us still packed onto airplanes, into potentially unsafe holiday gatherings, and into probably much too crowded stores to begin our holiday shopping.  (Insert eyeroll here!) Yeah, we don’t wait well.

But this passage reminds us that faith is essentially a waiting game.  It is the season of preparation but we tend to equate preparation with knowing what will happen, when it will happen, and how many people will be involved.  But Advent preparation is not about planning; it is about a sort of active waiting.  “Adventus”, the Latin from which our season derives, means arrival or coming.  It’s only partially about looking ahead.  Think of it as a place between two ways of being, a threshold between God’s coming into this world some 2,000 years ago and the promised coming for which we wait.  Part of it is remembering.  And part of it is entering what is to come.  It’s not a checklist; it’s an act of faith.  Waiting is an act of faith.  It’s not temporary.  It’s not preparing for the “Thing”.  Waiting IS the “Thing” in this season. 

In The Life of Moses, 4th century theologian and Eastern Church Father, St. Gregory of Nyssa, talks of the incarnations of God, as in more than one.  He talks of the many comings of God—the moving of God’s Spirit over the waters, the burning bush, the cloud of knowing—that for him leads up to the Incarnation of God in the form of a human, the Birth of Jesus Christ.  But if those who were waiting for the (big “I”) Incarnation had put everything into that, ignoring all those places in their lives where God burst in and was made known, all those (small “i”) incarnations, then they never would have been fully prepared as faithful people to welcome God into the world.

Advent is not “pre-Christmas”.  It’s not really meant to only be the time that we get ready for the big day.  We cannot live one season ahead.  God will come when God will come.  The full revealing of God has in store is yet to be.  But this Season of Waiting awakens us to what has already started to be so that we’ll know the pathway that we are to take.  The feast has yet to begin but the dancing has started.  So we stay alert to the incarnations that God inserts into our lives.  And we dance with them.  And we wait.  We just have to wait.

You must give birth to your images.  They are the future waiting to be born.  Fear not the strangeness you feel.  The future must enter you long before it happens.  Just wait for the birth, for the hour of new clarity. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Grace and Peace,


2 thoughts on “The Waiting Game

  1. I look forward to your columns because they never fail to give me insights to think about. The scriptural basis was the one that was preached by Rev. Jeff McDonald at St. Paull’s yesterday. It is part of the liturgy practiced by most UMC churches.

    Keep moving us toward the coming of the light is the birth of the Christ child.
    Yours in Christ,

    • Thanks Larry! I’m “splashing” in the Lectionary passages each week. I usually do it the week ahead but since I started on Sunday, I didn’t have that option for the first week so I “borrowed” it! I’m glad you’re reading and enjoying. Keep replying! Miss y’all!…Shelli

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