Much of our imagery of Advent is tied into the idea of waiting. Waiting for Emmanuel to come. Waiting for God to intervene. We’re in the middle of the night waiting for dawn to arrive. We’re waiting for something different to happen. One image is the pregnant woman waiting to give birth, which ties into the nativity story.
We spend a lot of our lives waiting for various things. Maybe the question for Advent is: What are we waiting for? And when does the waiting end?
So much of our religion has become about waiting. Waiting for heaven. Waiting for God to respond to a prayer and to change something. Waiting for God to right the wrongs. Waiting for God to set things straight. Waiting and waiting and waiting.
What if we’ve got it backward? What if someone is waiting for us?
Soon we’ll celebrate the birthday of Jesus, who was passionate about the here and now. Give food and drink to whoever is hungry and thirsty today. Go and visit those who are imprisoned at this moment. Stop and help the person bleeding by the side of the road right now. Heal the person rather than waiting another day until the Sabbath is over to help them. Do this no matter what the cost.
Don’t wait. Do it now.
In his book The Power of Parable, John Dominic Crossan points out that Jesus was about what we do in the moment: “You have been waiting for God, he said, while God has been waiting for you. No wonder nothing is happening. You want God’s intervention, he said, while God wants your collaboration. God’s kingdom is here, but only insofar as you accept it, enter it, live it, and thereby establish it.”
God is waiting for us. God is at work right now. Are we ready to join in?
Is Advent about passive waiting, or about something more?
One common religious image is a feast that draws many people together. Many of us have just celebrated Thanksgiving by sharing a large meal with people who are important to us. We got up early, prepared the turkey and put it in the oven, then waited for it to get done. But our waiting was very busy. We had to peel and cook the potatoes, prepare the vegetables, clean the house, get the table set and ready for our guests. We don’t just sit there and stare at the turkey while it baked. If we do that, we won’t have much of a feast at all.
There’s so much to be done right now — needy people to be helped, hurting people to be healed, conflicts to be calmed, societies to be changed, hatred to be transformed into love.
What are we waiting for?
If all we do is sit and wait on God, we’re like people trapped in a perpetual Advent. We never do what God is all about. We never put ourselves in the moment.
We never get to Christmas morning.
Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.