01 December 2014

Advent: The Challenge of Waiting

In this Season of Advent we learn about waiting. Waiting is painful; it brings anxiety and in some cases causes us to wonder - “Where is God?”, “Does God sleep?”, “Does he care?” 

Malachi had spoken of the Messiah’s coming in chapter 1 "I have loved you, saith the LORD. Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me saying ‘the Lord, whom ye seek is coming to his temple, for he brings a new covenant, a new day of delight. Will you stand with him when he appeareth? For his message is like a refiner's fire."

Imagine being the Jewish people hearing these words of promise, the coming of a new day, a new hope and then suddenly silence. After these words from Malachi there was cold, tortuous silence for 400 years. Between the Old Testament and the New Testament it seemed as if God disappeared. Nothing was spoken and nothing moved. 

Jesus did not arrive into a quaint storyline. There were thousands of people hanging on the words of Malachi who did not see these words fulfilled. There are no easy answers as to why God would take his time. In our emotional economies this is not O.K. In our demands for immediacy there is no space and no purpose for waiting. What we need, what we long for, must come on our terms and on our timelines. If we have to wait too long we're prone to move on, become cynical and pick another course. 

By the time Emmanuel arrived, those looking for the Messiah had been whittled down to a small remnant and few were looking any longer. Many had filled in the silence with their own agendas and demands. During Advent we are challenged with the complexity of waiting. We are confronted with our own character, our own faithfulness and our own expectations. This is the challenge of waiting. “Why would God makes us wait for what is good?” 

During Advent we ponder the place we are in. We have been offered a new purpose but not one without pain and paradox. We are given vision for a Kingdom-future but then we are weighed down in the obstacles of today. Our lives are still a mix of delight and despair. We are exposed everyday to the merging of brokenness and beauty. As we light the Advent candle’s let’s consider what we are waiting for. Let’s consider the kind of people we desire to be as we wait. To hold onto hope is to embrace that God's Spirit may be working on character deep within us as we wait.

A Community Prayer for Waiting

When we are heavy with sorrow, 
let us cling to a whispering hope.
When we are deep in the night, 
let us not forget the light we’ve once seen.
When we are exhausted from waiting, 
let us find strength in each other.

Like the Remnant of Israel, teach our hearts how to wait.

When we are hardened by conflict, 
let love interrupt our bitterness.
When we are frightened by scenarios, 
let us receive wisdom from each other.
When we are haunted by failures, 
let grace heal our self-inflicted wounds.
When we are dismal and defeated, 
let faith be our nourishment.

Like the Remnant of Israel, teach our hearts how to wait.

When we are weary and complaining, 
let our hearts discover perspective.
When we are apathetic and clumsy, 
let deep apologies flow from our lips.
When we are dashed by disappointments,
let us find footing to press forward.

Like the Remnant of Israel, teach our hearts how to wait.

We are sheep who wander in the waiting, 
but the Shepherd knows our names.
We are strangers without a country, 
but the Kingdom of God is our true home.

In this time of great meaning, 
in the stillness of Advent, 
birth new patience, 
give us grace for the days before us.

In the name of the Father, 
the Son and the Holy Spirit, 

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