The Season of Advent and the God who waits.
The season of Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas Day) has traditionally been a season of expectation: a time to listen, again, to the promises of God, and to consider what those promises mean for us today. It’s also a time of waiting. The parts of Scripture that we listen to over these weeks give us a sense of all the people, throughout history, who have waited, often in dark and uncertain circumstances, for God’s promises to be fulfilled in their time.
We don’t need to use our imaginations much this year to reflect on what it feels like to wait. In many ways 2020 is a waiting year like no other. Waiting for the daily briefing by Dan Andrews. Waiting for the borders to open. Waiting for the election result of a country far away from here. Waiting for a vaccine.
In the midst of all the waiting, 2020 has also been a year when we’ve faced some truths about our human condition, that have, perhaps, not been so clear to us before. We’ve noticed the fragility of life, and not just human life faced with a nasty virus. We have also noticed the vulnerability of the planet (remember the bush-fires at the start of the year?)
In many ways it’s been a sobering year, a year when our wings have been clipped. But I would also say that 2020 has been a time when our sense of what matters has become more fine-tuned. One of the things I loved seeing during lock-down was families together in parks, mucking around together, “wasting” time together. I’ve had quite a few conversations about the beauty of the season, or about how simple are needs really are. I’ve heard students appreciating their teachers in new ways too!
I’d also say that 2020 has been a time when many of us have wondered more about God, and how God is involved with us. A time when we might have sensed God’s presence in the beauty of the earth: in Autumn leaves, or sunsets or bird song, or the tranquility of a garden. And a time when we might have had a fresh sense of how God chooses to be involved with us: not with grand gestures, pushing aside all that impedes us – but in utter humility. God walking quietly beside us, helping us to face what is there, encouraging us in the big and small dramas of each day, inviting us to lean on God’s strength when we have felt incapable of anything much at all . . . and always, always, waiting for us.
So, while we might think about Advent as a time of us waiting for God, there is also much to be said about how God waits for us. The God whose incarnation we celebrate at Christmas is the God who waits for us so patiently and humbly. Waits for us to put aside the distractions and the busy schedules that are sometimes a substitute for real life. Waits for us to open the doors of our hearts to the divine love. Waits for us to lean in to God’s strength and goodness. Waits for us to discover that life together – life for the flourishing of every part of creation – is the best kind of life there is, and that we want to play our part.
I hope that as we prepare for Christmas, we hang on to some of what we have learned of ourselves and God this year. May we approach Christmas with a sense of the fragility and magnificence of life, may be celebrate with light-hearts, and may we revel in the love that waits to change the world.
May God bless you and your loved ones this Christmas. Those who have lost loved ones this year will be particularly in my prayers on Christmas Eve.
Reverend Helen Creed