We have been waiting too, we waited for the miracle of science and a Covid Vaccine, we waited for a time when we could be close to those we love, and now it seems we are waiting to learn how to deal with emerging viral strains and how to live a good, full life, with life just as it is now.
After all the many years of waiting, along comes Jesus. He has something new to say about waiting. In the Gospel story Jesus foretold a time of signs: changes in the sun and moon and the stars, roaring of the sea and the waves, great distress and confusion among nations. These words speak so clearly to us now, as they have throughout history to all God’s people. Jesus gives some sound advice: “Stand up, raise your heads, be on guard. Don’t let the worries of this life weigh you down so you miss “it”.
What is this “it” that he refers to as “the coming of man”? This second coming theology is something I can’t understand. I’m interested in the here and now and as a practical person I can surely relate to the presence of God in my life right now, the idea that Jesus is always walking by my side. The collect says, “put on the armor of light and rise to the life immortal. Now, not later, not at some apocalyptic end days’ time, but now, every day. Don’t miss the presence of God in your life.
I wonder if Jesus might be telling me that I need to practice a special kind of waiting. Can I wait with an open, active mind, one in which I am present in the moment and all my senses are tuned in, expectantly listening…not for some discrete answer to my present prayer, but to the still small voice of God leading me on, sometimes down pathways I can’t even imagine?
Is it the difference between waiting for God and waiting with God?
In health care we have an approach to some medical problems which we call “watchful waiting”. Time is allowed to pass before medical intervention or therapy is used. During this time testing and evaluation may continue, symptoms are monitored, and changes noted. In a way, we pay attention to how the body speaks. We are alert and ready to follow whatever path is indicated. I do believe that God speaks to us in many ways. God speaks through the body; pain and fatigue are messages, so is joy and contentment, that rush of endorphins one feels after a good exercise session. We can hear and see God in nature, art, in music and in children. There is much to learn if we are watchful.
Watchful waiting is an active thing. If I am weighed down with the thoughts of gift giving this Christmas, or the parallel thought that most of us don’t need more “things” in our homes, can I listen to advice from the holy spirit? If my to-do list is overwhelmingly long, what can I do to change that. I think if we wait watchfully and invite God to come into our lives, we will always find the answers to our prayers.
One of the joys of Advent for me is rediscovering this Mary Oliver poem. She is a writer who knew a thing or two about paying attention. For me it’s about watchful waiting and listening for God. And so I’ll leave you with this:
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
I hope that your Advent is filled with God’s presence, and that you receive answers to your prayers, every day. Amen.
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