The theme of Advent is ‘Waiting’, where waiting is a loaded word which has little to do with killing time. The Waiting has emerged as a theme in some of the children’s stories that have featured so far in our Online Advent Calendar. The Waiting is also the minor key which many of the passages from the Biblical Prophets we read or listen to in our journey through Advent strike. The Waiting is there in a major key in the Birth Narratives of our Lord.
In parallel there is usually the normal waiting that is part of the human life. Waiting at a micro level – shopping, for a doctor’s appointment, for the reply to an email… Waiting in the macro – in pain and fear and grief, for it to get easier or at least more manageable…
And in what we all hope is a unique year (as in we will never be so surprised and unprepared by a pandemic ever again) we have waited for things to return to normal, we have waited for a vaccine, we have waited for directives on how to live and to do so safely.
What you don’t need here, at least not from me, is an analysis on the effects of waiting – the insecurity and uncertainty, the loss of control, the self-doubt…
In all of that Waiting, I wish for us at this point in this season to draw some distinctions for our reflections as we creep nearer to Christmas.
There is: ‘waiting’ and also ‘being made to wait’.
We wait with Mary and Sarah and Abraham, we wait with the prophets, we wait with the people of Israel in ancient times – through a pregnancy, for the fulfilment of promise, for deliverance from a string of colonial super powers, for God to act and be present.
Being made to wait has always been a tool in power games. And in today’s context that is no different. Those who have access to wealth and education and power can make those who are denied access ‘wait’.
On the flip side, Waiting is most uncomfortable for those who have been privileged enough to very rarely be kept waiting, who have perhaps even grown up believing their place at the front of any queue is an entitlement.
Those with a Jewish faith (we are actually in Chanukah) are perhaps the best equipped with the skills of waiting, experts at it. We have inherited many of the narratives of waiting in what we sometimes call the Old Testament (actually the Hebrew Scriptures), but the experience of waiting we have not shared to anything like the same extent, though there are those undertones in St Paul’s writings.
None of us need politicians and religious leaders and sociologists and psychologists to tell us what opportunities this Corona enforced waiting has given us. However when we look back in 5 or 10 years, how will we see our own private response to these times and the waiting? No point then thinking ‘I wish I had…..’ ‘I could have …..’
The Christmas stories lend us articulation to our Waiting and many models of Waiting. May we all be blessed in our Waiting.