“Wait for it....” It's a popular phrase along pop-culture landscapes. The problem is nobody likes to wait, and yet waiting is a part of life.
We wait at the DMV or the grocery store checkout, in line at the post office to mail Christmas packages, for an appointment, a diagnosis, a resolution, a solution, an opportunity, the light at the end of the tunnel, a birth, a death.
“Wait for it. . . .” It is the cry of Advent. As we enter Advent, we sing, “Wait for the Lord whose day is near” (Taizé chant) and “Patience, people.” Yet, Advent is not a good time for waiting! It is the very time when our social and shopping calendars kick into high gear. We cannot possibly “have no anxiety at all” (Phil 4:6) and rest in some blissful holding pattern.
We’re not going to stop buying and mailing Christmas presents, visiting with friends and relations, or adding extra charitable activities for the sake of those who are not as fortunate as we are. We will not be able to avoid the noise and excitement in the air between Thanksgiving and Christmas (or, as it is increasingly now, between Halloween and Christmas). We will hurry, perhaps frequently. But we can also listen deeply to words from our Advent Scriptures and create a plan to insert moments of patient waiting into our busy days.
Here are some possibilities.
First Week of Advent
“The days are coming—oracle of the LORD—when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).
Life and its burdens can be overwhelming. We may feel unfulfilled, incomplete. We may ache, yearn. Psalm 25 for the first Advent Sunday supplies us with the gift of a simple prayer to breathe over and over again this week: “For you [Lord] I wait all the day long.
Try praying it whenever you find yourself waiting for anything, stuck in traffic, fretting over an anticipated phone call or a delay in service, or standing in line. Turn each waiting moment into a sacred moment. When you feel particularly spiritually stressed, find the longest line!
Second Week of Advent
“The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:5-6).
In the first two readings and the psalm, God tells us that he “will” or “shall” heal us and bring to completion what he has begun in us. In the Gospel’s quote from Isaiah, the word shall occurs four times in the last two sentences. We are asked to hope and trust and wait on God; but let us not forget that God waits on us—often and patiently, like a parent with a growing child, or a beloved spouse, or a farmer awaiting the yield of the field in winter and in spring rain.
This week, pay attention when you spend time waiting for others. Replace impatience with delight in the other, be it a child or an adult. Be as God waiting for you! Be patient with those you love and those you encounter.
Third Week of Advent
“Shout for joy, daughter Zion! . . . The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst” (Zep 3:14, 15).
This is Gaudete Sunday, the day we rejoice in the closeness of the Lord’s coming. “Do not be discouraged!” says Zephaniah. Judgment has been removed from us, our enemies turned away. How do we understand that? How often do we hear a prayer for peace in the world and respond to ourselves, “Yeah, as if that’s possible”? Or see the need for justice or human rights in places that beg for them and think, Fat chance?
This week, let us practice offering our prayers of petition as God asks, “full of gratitude,” recognizing that what appears impossible to us is always possible for God. We are in the season of impossible good news: God comes to us! While you are standing in line this week, do a rundown of your prayer requests and complete each one with a simple “thank you.” That’s it. Just “thank you.”
Fourth Week of Advent
“O God of hosts, restore us; light up your face and we shall be saved” (Ps 80:8).
We’re now entering the homestretch of Advent, heading for the goal, the celebration of the Lord’s birth. Jesus has come in history as a tiny babe in a manger. He does come in mystery, prayer, word, sacrament, and many small daily wonders. And he will come in glory at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. Our psalm response this Sunday is, “Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face, and we shall be saved.” God present in our midst—that is the gift that tops all gifts in this season and always!
This week, let our prayer be simply a yearning for God. The decorations will be up. The cookies will be baked. Presents will be under the tree. Friends and family will gather. We will be prepared. Now what we must do is wait. Wait on the Lord! Anticipate that wonderful moment when we will once more fall on our knees and sing with the angels. . . . Wait for it. . . .
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14).