Tom Petty once sang that “the waiting is the hardest part.” For Canadians, this time of year feels like it is meant to be a waiting period. Remembrance Day is over and there is about a month and a half until Christmas. But we’re not very good at waiting. We fill this space meant for waiting with completely artificial things like Black Friday and attempts to rush through to the next big thing. Christmas stuff has been for sale in stores for a couple of weeks already! Waiting truly is hard, but it is exactly what we’re going to consider today.
Between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament was about 400 years. When I was growing up, I often heard that period referred to as “400 years of silence.” I was told that God was completely silent during that time.
The strong implication was because there was no Bible being written or recorded prophets speaking, that God was not at work. The lack of the written word was considered absence. Absence was considered distance.
There is much we can learn from the past 1900 years with no new written scripture. One of those things should be that just because scripture isn’t being written, it doesn’t mean God is absent and it certainly doesn’t mean God is distant. To put it another way, just because people are waiting, doesn’t mean God isn’t working.
When the apostle, Paul, was reflecting on how it came to be that Jesus entered the world, he used this phrase: But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son. “When the set time had fully come.” While I can’t be certain all that Paul meant by that expression, one thing is for sure. Paul was convinced that God was working in that waiting. God was working in events and history - sometimes with people, sometimes around people, and likely sometimes against people - to bring things to the point where God would enter the world in the flesh through the person of Jesus. God was working in the waiting.
Of course, Jesus came 2000 years ago. For most of us, 100 years isn’t easily imaginable, let alone 2000 years. We live and have lived in a state of waiting for two millennia. And despite our best efforts to rush things and get them to come sooner, the waiting continues. The problem with our efforts to rush past this time of waiting is that we can and likely do miss out on the work God intends to do during this time. Work to prepare the world, us, our hearts, and our attitudes for whatever God is going to do next.
The church calendar has this season we call Advent. It is a season designed for waiting. Through it, we enter into solidarity with those who waited during that 400 years. We wait even though it is hard. We wait with longing for Emmanuel to come. We wait with cries like, “How long, Oh Lord!” We wait not rushing through the difficulty, but acknowledging it and asking God to come near to us in it.
The difference for us is that we wait knowing that God is at work in the waiting. We wait with a sure and certain hope that Jesus has come, is come, and is coming again. We wait asking God to work in our lives to increase divine hope, love, joy and peace in our hearts that will last far beyond our celebration of Christmas.
As you go this week, I know the cultural pressure is to get carried away with Black Friday and to rush ahead to Christmas. I pray that you and I, that we as a Covenant Community, will be able to walk slowly into the coming season. To do so with an awareness of the waiting and an openness to what God is doing among us and in the world as we wait.