Patience seems to be a four-letter word today. We don’t like to wait and when we have to, we often don’t do so patiently. These days I find myself using my cell phone to help me deal with short-term waiting like at a doctor’s office or in line at the store (not in the car!). But long-term waiting – days, month, even years – that’s tougher! Fortunately my busy life as bishop keeps me from noticing my impatience because there is always something else to do. But unfortunately, this busy-ness doesn’t give me the opportunity to practice waiting.
Of course, waiting is more difficult when we’re anxious or afraid. And we are afraid…of others, of the future, of our inner feelings and thoughts. This fear causes us to want to escape, to flee from our waiting. And when we can’t flee, we fight. Or freeze into numbness. Yes, our fear makes waiting even harder.
Yet this seems to be a theme of Advent: to wait in the midst of fear. Wait in the midst of anxiety. Wait for Jesus to come again. Oh, and by the way, Jesus’ coming will change everything…yes, everything! What’s more frightening than that!
In the midst of all this waiting and fear, followers of Christ are called to have faith. And we’re called to live in hope. But what does it mean to wait in faith-filled hope, even as we fear?
Well, for one thing, waiting in faith-filled hope means waiting with a sense of promise. It means using all our senses – physical, emotional, and spiritual senses -- to enter into the promise that God gives us in Jesus Christ. That promise is like a seed planted in each one of us in our baptism, a seed that is nurtured in us by the Spirit, the Holy Gardener. We just have to put ourselves in places where we can best be watered, pruned, and breathed on by God’s love, all while avoiding the weeds and removing the stones that would prevent that promise from taking root and growing in us. In the end, waiting in faith-filled hope isn’t about looking at a promise from the outside. It means living inside God’s promise of new life and letting that promise live inside us.
Second, waiting in faith-filled hope is active. Waiting is not a passive, hopeless, empty state of numbness that is caused by events out of our control. Followers of Christ never “just wait.” We wait actively in a sure hope that the promised seed has been planted and that God’s promise is happening to us and around us even if we can’t see it. We wait knowing that we get to participate in God’s promise for the world in glad rejoicing by standing up, raising our heads, reaching out our arms, and serving in love. Waiting in faithful hope, then, means being the conduit through which the Spirit plants and nurtures the seeds of Christ’s promise in everyone around us.
Also, faith-filled waiting in hope means being patient. Patience is courage. It’s daring to stay where we are and live out our situation to its fullest in the trust that something hidden will become manifest to us. Patience means doing our best to live God’s activity in the present, nurturing every moment as the earth nurtures a growing seed, as a mother nurtures a child growing inside her.
Fourth, actively waiting in faith-filled hope is open-ended. It’s being open to God’s work that is being done in our lives. “Let go and let God,” the saying goes. This is a radical attitude toward life in our “I’m in charge” world, trusting in hope that God is doing something that is far beyond our imagination or control. Waiting in faithful hope is trusting completely that God is growing us into who God calls us to be according to God’s love rather than our fear.
Finally, how do we actively wait in this faith-filled hope of Christ’s promise? Well, we do it together, in love. We wait not alone but as a community of faith, the body of Christ in this place and time. As followers of Christ, we enable and empower each other to wait, creating space for others to wait, affirming for each other that there is indeed something awesome that we all are waiting for. This community is the Church, the body of Christ through which we have faith in God’s promise together, supporting, nurturing, celebrating and affirming what God is doing for our community in Jesus again and again.
Ultimately, waiting in faith-filled hope is not about fear; it’s about following Jesus together as we trust that Christ’s promise is indeed becoming real for you, in you and through you in Jesus’ name.
Blessed waiting to you all!