Advent 1 (Sunday) :: What Does It Mean to Wait?

Christmas coming into view. 

Christmas coming into view. 

Dear friends,

What comes to mind when you think of the Advent season?

I posed this question to our Advent Meditations group this past week and received a gorgeous litany of words, memories, songs, poems, and images in response.

For some, Advent is deeply personal, tied to specific times and places that open the door of the season. For others, it is a place of new questions — an experience they never knew in the Christian tradition until now, mysterious in its presence.

The predominant responses circled around these themes:

  • Waiting
  • Expectation
  • Anticipation
  • Pregnancy

All of these words of waiting, expectation, and anticipation got me to thinking: What does it mean to wait? And what do we do while we're waiting?

I think of the historic waiting that brought the Incarnation to life. It was waiting steeped in promise. The prophets preached words that promised God's drawing near, and the people of Israel waited — hundreds of years, yes, many of them silent, but they waited.

In the meantime, the most faithful among them kept doing what they knew to do: observing the law and traditions that had been passed on to them from the generations that came before.

I think, too, of the waiting Mary did when the angel Gabriel came and proclaimed another kind of promise — one of pregnancy leading to life and a whole world turned upside-down. Mary was promised a child, and she would wait through nine months of gestation and growth for the fulfillment of that promise.

In the meantime, she prepared in the ways she could.

She visited her kinswoman, Elizabeth. She went with her betrothed, Joseph, to the city of David to register for the census, as it was their responsibility to do. 

I wonder what kind of motherly preparations Mary carried out. Did she make clothing for the babe on its way? Did she prepare room in their home for his welcome? Did she talk to him? Did she pray to God and ask God questions? 

What did Mary's waiting look like?

Something tells me hers was not a passive kind of waiting. Something tells me it was the kind of waiting that did the next right thing, the faithful thing, whatever her hands found for themselves to do.

What does our own waiting look like, then?

And what kind of promise induces our waiting in the first place? 

I think of the waiting I'm doing right now. It is a waiting for the more full emergence of this land we call Still Forming, a promised land of pilgrims walking the way who also walk the way together.

It has been promised, but it's not yet here. I'm waiting.

What do I do in the meantime?

I suppose my waiting looks like this: I keep finding the next right thing to do, too. I keep doing what I know to do. I listen, and I pray. I keep writing these letters to you. I keep attending to the invitations of my personal formation. I keep belonging to my church. I keep helping with the Eucharist. I keep saying yes to what comes, however unexpected it may be.

The kind of waiting into which Advent invites us is one of response to a promise received. It is a kind of waiting that includes our continuing to do what we've always known to do and also of doing the next right thing, even as we watch and wait.

What is the promise you have received — the one for which you're waiting? What active shape might your waiting take? What are the things you know to do in this waiting place?  


Share your response in the Advent Meditations group.

Waiting for the promise,

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