Wednesday, December 9, 2009

To Wait or Not To Wait



Advent is defined as the arrival of something momentous that has been long awaited. Marking the beginning of the liturgical calendar, it is the season of hope. For God’s chosen people, Advent heralds the fulfillment of a long awaited promise, the promise that God and His beloved children will one day be reunited. The Old Testament chronicles the journey of humanity along the path of salvation. It is a story of waiting, sometimes in faith, but more often not.

In the New Testament the Messiah arrives, salvation is at hand, and yet still we wait. We know the promise has been fulfilled but much of the time, we don’t feel it. The trials I experience lead me to unrest. So I wait. I continue on the journey, resting briefly each year at this juncture, to anticipate Immanuel, God with us. I stop momentarily on that well trodden path and rest by the side of the road, my respite illuminated by the light of a star. In recalling the journeys of my predecessors, hopefully I will not only learn to avoid the potholes of distrust my circumstances carve out, but I will learn to trust that God’s mercy will surround me when I stumble.

How hard was it for Sarah, wife of Abraham, to hold on to the promise of descendents as her body aged beyond child bearing years? She was a woman of faith and obedience. Abraham hadn’t always steered her to safety, but God had intervened to ensure her sanctity. So as the years past and her already withering body decayed even further, she did what we so often do with the promise when circumstances appear contradictory to its achievement, we step in. She believed, but she was tired of waiting. She believed, but she thought God might need a little help, or maybe God helps those who help themselves. Abraham once again let her down. He cashed in on the compromise. Although the negative consequences of their choices were severe, God kept His promise. The Messiah came through Abraham and Sarah. God’s faithfulness despite our failings is unwavering. Further along the path, the disciples also doubt the fulfillment of the promise, even when they are sitting with Jesus in the boat, close enough to touch him. The severity of the wind and the waves holds their faith captive. Their fingers clenched around the edges of the boat, they shout at Jesus in terror, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" (Mark 4:38) The ultimate irony, who knows better than Jesus that we are perishing? Who could possibly care more than Jesus, who will suffer and die for our sins and bear our infirmities, so that we will not perish, but have eternal life?

“Hush, be still” Jesus said to the wind and waves” (Mark 4:39)

Advent is the beacon on the road to salvation where the promise meets the storm and all is calm. The potholes forged by our doubt and disobedience are laid smooth. We feel renewed confidence to continue on the journey. Hope triumphs over chaos. A young girl, full of grace, gazes into the face of an angel and believes. Her circumstances don’t improve, but she trusts in the promise. Advent marks the moment of convergence, almighty God and His beloved creation. “May it be done unto me according to your word” should be our only response. (Luke 1:38b) For a moment, the debris from the storm clears. Our hearts are still, no longer anxious. We wait in hope.

“Hush, be still”

“God is with us”

“Amen”

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