Advent 1 – December 2018

By Lucy Reid

Advent is about waiting: waiting for Christmas and our celebration of the birth of Jesus; waiting for the coming of the reign of God on earth (sometimes called the Second Coming); waiting for hope, peace, joy and love to shine out where there is despair, violence, grief and hatred.

But there are different ways of waiting:

  • We can wait with impatient excitement, like a child counting down the days till her birthday
  • Or we can wait with boredom and frustration, as our kids used to do when we were watching the early evening news on TV and they wanted to watch their shows
  • Or we can wait with anxiety, as we often do when waiting for medical test results, or political developments on the global stage
  • And then there’s busy waiting, when there’s a lot to be done before the event on the horizon, like a birth or a move

There’s active waiting and passive waiting.

There’s hopeful waiting and fearful waiting.

What are you waiting for? And how are you waiting?

In the gospel for today Jesus says that hard, difficult things will happen while we wait for the coming of the Son of Man and our redemption, but that we’re to “stand up and raise our heads,” not cower in fear.

And we’re to wait hopefully, like someone seeing leaves budding on trees and knowing that summer is coming.

We’re not to be “weighed down with drunkenness and worries” – that is, we’re not to be numbing out the waiting with addictive activities, or distracted by anxiety. Instead we’re to be alert, watchful, present to what’s happening and what’s coming.

So Advent is about active, hopeful waiting, and it’s about preparing for what’s ahead.

In our day it’s not so much the imminent end of the world that most of us worry about, it’s the end of an era – this long period since the 1950s of relative peace, prosperity, affluence in most of N America and Europe. An era that also saw extreme poverty across the globe plummet by 50%, as millions of the most impoverished rose up the socio-economic ladder. But that era is shifting as climate change faces us with unprecedented challenges, and the balance of global power shifts from the West to the East.

What lies ahead and how do we face waiting for it?

The gospel tells us to face it with mindfulness. To face it with hope rather than fear, blind optimism or bleak despair. God’s kingdom is near – it’s always near. Jesus is coming – Jesus is always coming. Can we be alert, prepared, active in our waiting?

Can we be mindful?

Mindful, hopeful, active waiting is a spiritual practice. And Advent is a great time to practise it.

Next time you’re aware of waiting and worrying about something stressful, whether on the global stage or very personally in your life, recall Jesus’ teaching:

  • Stand up and raise your head, don’t be dominated by fear
  • Hold out hope, like looking for budding leaves
  • Don’t get weighed down with worry or anaesthetized by your favourite addiction
  • Be mindful and present to what is happening now

Waiting is hard, and I believe waiting is also holy.

It can bring us to a grounded, hopeful place where God’s kingdom is indeed very close.