The Time of Waiting
Advent: The Time of Waiting ... A few weeks ago, I was waiting for a guest who seemed as though he’d never arrive; I know what it’s like to wait for the end of the semester, after projects are in and grades are assigned. A pregnant woman waits to be delivered, and sometimes the last few weeks and days seem as though they’ll never “be accomplished”. We wait for the results of a medical exam, hoping for a positive report. A child is not the only one who waits for the day to come when a package under the tree may finally be opened. In the gospel for this last Sunday Jesus tells us to look for the signs, such as the fig tree sprouting leaves, and be careful not to let ourselves be distracted as we wait. The poet T. S. Eliot, in “Burnt Norton,” the second of his “Four Quartets,” puts a particular spin on the thought of waiting:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love for the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
I know that where I live, on the Eastern Plains of Colorado, it is unseasonably warm, and we have been waiting for rain for months: it’s something that preoccupies a lot of thought, however unready we may be for thought. But I look at the forecast: “Warm and sunny all next week; warm and cloudy the week following. The refugee waits for food, for shelter, for a place of safety. We wait for the Coronavirus to subside, no longer multiplying and producing new variations. It may be early in the process for St. Stephen’s to be impatient; we are still not done with saying good-by to Pastor Jason and Craig. And yet, are we not already waiting for a new pastor? In the meantime.…
I wonder if the so many things we find ourselves forced to wait for may at least serve the purpose of how one becomes sufficiently attentive to God’s waiting world that one can finally see more clearly what it is that we are to hope for, to love, and thus that one is sustained in our faithfulness by God’s faithfulness to us in our waiting, wherever and however that might be. The words of another poet come to mind, from John Milton, “On His Blindness”: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Waiting, necessary waiting, teaches patience: and patience can bring awareness of a hope deeper than we had ever imagined.
Blessings on your waiting, in this season of waiting: whatever it is that you may wait for.
Pastor Allen Heggen