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  • Len Rempel

What are we waiting for?


“Wait for it…” someone says expectantly, as they stand there with a silly smirk, just waiting to deliver the punchline.  They ask us to wait that extra few seconds to increase their enjoyment as they anticipate our reaction.  Our society seems to enjoy asking us to wait while at the same time, not really wanting to wait at all.

Christmas also seems to be about waiting … or more precisely, Advent seems to be about waiting.  I must admit that Advent has always seemed a bit of a paradox.  On one hand we set up this intentional time of waiting but yet we know precisely how long we must wait and what we are waiting for.  As a child I never needed an Advent calendar to tell me how many days until Christmas, although I did enjoy the chocolate that was “hidden” behind each door.  I also didn’t need the lighting of candles to increase my anticipation of Christmas morning.

As an adult I have come to appreciate this intentional time of waiting but I am still sometimes left asking the question, “what am I waiting for?”  How do I wait for an event that happened 2,000 years ago?  How do I not allow my waiting to be dictated by the marketing strategies that all point to this shopping season that coincidentally comes to a climax on the day we set aside for the birth of Jesus? 

Is all this waiting important or even helpful or is it just to help build the excitement for another Christmas holiday?  In other words, what are we waiting for?

 

A voice is crying out: “Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!  Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!  Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened.  Uneven ground will become level, and rough terrain a valley plain. The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together; the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”

              — Isaiah 40:3-5 (Common English Bible)

 

Waiting does not mean that we simply “sit and wait.”  Actually, the question of how we wait depends on what we are waiting for.  If we are waiting for paint to dry (as they say), maybe it does mean we just sit and wait or maybe we start cleaning up the brushes, closing the paint cans, and wiping up the paint that somehow missed the drop cloth.

If we are waiting for the gift exchange of Christmas morning, I suppose we go out and buy some gifts or make something to give to someone.  If, like at Advent, we are waiting for the Messiah, waiting for God to make an appearance, to comfort the suffering, feed the hungry, and heal the sick, how should we wait?  I think the first step is imagining a world where those things happen.  We need to allow our imaginations to show us what a world that embodies God’s kingdom looks like.

Maybe that is what the voice was crying out in Isaiah’s prophecy.  By catching a vision of what God’s kingdom looks like, we begin clearing the way and making level the highway.  We can then work on levelling the ground, that is, changing the systems that keep the oppressed, the hungry, and the vulnerable in that state.  Raising the valleys and flattening the mountains means that all of us are treated with fairness and love.

This is what it means to wait in Advent.  After all, we are not actually waiting for December 25th, we are waiting for the coming of God’s kingdom into our world and into our lives so that, as Isaiah says, “The Lord’s glory will appear, and ALL humanity will see it together.

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