It seems that as the world becomes supposedly less complicated through technological advances, we still find ourselves waiting. Waiting for that package that we ordered online to arrive in record speed. Waiting in line at the various government agencies, waiting for that great job to come along or waiting for that elusive perfect relationship. It never ends.|
The bottom line is that even in our fast-paced world, with postmodern conveniences, we are all waiting for something. However, as strange as it sounds, during the Advent season, we discover a purpose to our waiting. Let me explain.
You think we have it rough? How about waiting thousands of years, not for something minor like groceries, but for the king whose eternal reign would end the oppression of the world? What do we think about thousands of people hoping and praying fervently for something miraculous to happen, while successive generations are born and pass away, without a hint of fulfillment?
I am speaking here of the ancient Hebrew patriarchs, kings, prophets, and priests, who waited expectantly for the coming of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah expresses this hope:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD (Isaiah 2:2-5, RSV).
Then, hundreds of years later, born in Bethlehem, a small town in the Roman Empire, their hope is finally realized, but with a twist, because Jesus is not the earthly warrior-king many expected. So even after waiting, the final realization of the Messiah's eternal reign is still yet to be seen, coming in the future, when the baby born in Bethlehem returns in power to judge the living and the dead. All of this makes our own waiting seem pretty insignificant. Somehow waiting five extra minutes at a fast-food restaurant seems pretty trivial.
During the Advent season we symbolically participate in the waiting of the patriarchs, kings, prophets, and priests, as we await Christ's final and glorious return. Through prayer, liturgy, Eucharist, and the signs and symbols of Advent, we groan with Isaiah for a day when weapons will be turned into agricultural instruments. We cry out with Zechariah, rejoicing that the dawn from on high is breaking upon us. We pray with the likes of Adam, Job, Hannah, Solomon, Micah, and millions of others, named and unnamed, many whose expectations of the future kingdom may have been hazy, yet who still yearned for something more complete and more "real" than what they knew.
When God the Word became man in Christ, celebrated on Christmas day, the world was sanctified. Something in the fabric of the cosmos shifted as creation became a fitting vehicle for God's redemptive work. Human experiences have been sanctified as well, commemorated in our Church Year. Yes, as the season of Advent shows, even waiting has become sanctified.
As we wait in long lines this Advent season, or as we wait for anything really, I think it is important that we remember the waiting of those expecting the Messiah, and always wait with patience, humility, and expectant hope in a state of prayer. I know it is difficult, but especially during Advent, waiting prayerfully and patiently, in the manner of our Lord and his blessed Mother, is not only a good spiritual discipline, but could also lower our risk of holiday-induced blood pressure. It seems like we're all waiting for something, so why not use these experiences to enhance our Advent disciplines by prayerfully waiting, joining our prayers with all the saints?
Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes