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Thought for Third Sunday of Advent: Why Are We Waiting?

We Wait, And We Wait, And We…

Waiting rooms, forming a queue, getting in line, waiting for the bus, waiting for time to pass, waiting for something to turn up, God’s Waiting Rooms – the human race has learned to organise the time it has to spend waiting, but that doesn’t mean it likes it. An element of impatience creeps in. Sometimes this erupts into the chant – ironically sung rather untunefully to a Christmas carol – of ‘Why Are We Waiting?’

‘Access takes the waiting out of wanting’

As Archbishop Rowan pointed out in 2008,

…one of the most important and significant times in the Church’s year – a time of waiting, we sometimes say. “But once we’ve said waiting, of course that’s not a very attractive word. We’re not a culture that’s very used to waiting.” He said the advertising slogan once used by the credit card Access – “take the waiting out of wanting” – illustrates how many people want to possess things the minute they decide they want them, whereas waiting is seen as passive and boring.

And trying to organise a whole economy around the idea that paying for things ‘on the never never‘ was the done thing to do led to the international financial crisis that we are still not finished with.

So What Are We Waiting For?

A non-Christian friend asked me on November 25th when I was planning to put up my Christmas decorations, rather smugly adding that she had bought her Christmas presents, got her decorations up and was all ready for the big day. To her mystification, I told her that ideally I would put up my decorations on Christmas Eve, but would  probably advance that by about a week for practical reasons. I asked what it was she was celebrating – her answer was ‘Christmas, of course! You know, Santa Claus, stockings, the tree, turkey and mince pies – it’s for the children really’.

I pondered to myself on how one could celebrate something which has all the adornments but no core, no centre. I could understand it if my friend had said she was celebrating the winter solstice, but she – in common with who knows how many others – really believes herself to be celebrating Christmas, but without the Christ Child.

It’s Worth The Wait

But if our core, our centre, is Christ-shaped – or if we would like it to be so – waiting for the Incarnation is part of the joy. Some people rip open their Christmas presents, each in their own self-contained universe, and this part of Christmas is over in a trice. Others give out one present at a time, with everyone watching as the present is unwrapped and sharing in the pleasure of giving and receiving. Advent is surely a bit like that. Because we treasure our gift from God, we need to spend time preparing and making ourselves ready for His arrival; it is not a separate activity, it is part of receiving the gift.

Ann Lewin’s Kingfisher

Waiting for the arrival of the Christ child is rather like Ann Lewin’s metaphor for prayer. To paraphrase:

Advent is like watching for the
All you can do is
Be where he is likely to appear, and
Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and
No visible sign, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But when you’ve almost stopped
Expecting it, a flash of brightness
Gives encouragement.

And Is It True?

You all know this poem, but it says much better than I can why we wait joyfully each year in Advent :

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

This post is based on one originally written for The Big Bible Project as a Digidisciple.

1 comment on this post:


In this waiting period, anticipating Christmas Day, I am blessed by the belief that Christ is being born into my life anew every day.This time of waiting is, for me, a special time of meditating on this reality.Waiting is a time of deepening.
Douglas Schoeninger, editor the Journal of Chroistian Healing, The Association of Christian Therapists. Thank you for this focus.

17 December 2012 15:18

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