We don’t like waiting, do we? Not in our fast-food, instant-access world. We sit in the drive-thru at Tim Hortons, expecting our honey cruller and double-double in two minutes or less, and we can’t even sit aimlessly for that two minutes: we have to pull out our smart phone and check for messages or tweets or Facebook posts. Because, you know, those things can’t wait.
And yet, even in this world we sometimes find ourselves waiting. Really waiting.
Waiting for your grade on that assignment, the one that you put so much work into and you’ve got a lot riding on.
Waiting for your child to come home from that evening event, sitting by the window looking out at the falling snow and icy streets.
Waiting for that news from the doctor that will either bring a glad sigh of relief or plunge you into an anxious round of further tests or treatments.
This is the kind of waiting I mean when I talk about “waiting for Jesus.” Waiting for something really important. Waiting with a touch of anxiety, sometimes even in deep anguish. Waiting with anticipation, but on the knife edge of despair. Waiting for good news, but fearing the worst. Waiting for God.
It’s like we’re sitting in the black dog darkness of a dark winter’s night, the moon hidden from view, the chill piercing our bones, and we’re waiting, waiting, waiting. Looking to the east, looking to the dawn.
This kind of waiting is nothing new. In the bigger scheme of things, this waiting is seen in ancient Israel’s longing for God to act among them, for God’s Messiah to come and bring in God’s kingdom on earth. It’s seen in humanity’s yearning for God to reveal Godself, to bring deliverance from the enemies that plague our human existence: sin and death, the harms we cause and the consequences these bring. It’s seen in creation’s groaning for God to restore all things, to reverse the downward spiral of degradation in our planet due to our harmful actions.
As a church we’ll look at these different ways of “waiting for Jesus” over the next few Sundays of Advent.
But in the midst of these we have our own experiences of “waiting for Jesus.” It’s the kind of personal angst you see in the Psalms, where David cries out, “How long, O Lord?” (Ps 13:1), or where he urges himself to “Wait on the Lord” (Ps 27:14).
How do we “wait on the Lord”? How do we “wait for Jesus” in times like this, times of sickness or brokenness or anxiety or longing? All the gadgets and gizmos and Facebooks and Twitters in the world aren’t going to help with this kind of waiting.
Let me offer a few thoughts.
First, when you find yourself waiting like this, wait in hope. The sun will rise, just as it has every other day. God will come, just as God has always done. The new day might bring something different than you imagined, but it will come. God might act in a way that is not what you expected, but God will come.
Wait in hope. Don’t let the fear overtake you. Work hard to push the fear aside and tune your mind to trust in God. Talk this through with a friend if you need to. Remind yourself of ways God has provided in times past. God will act. The dawn will come.
Wait in hope. Even if you’re waiting days, weeks, months, years. Even for generations. We want the immediate present; God lives in the eternal present.
Second, wait in prayer. Cast your worries upon God. Cry out to God in your anguish, in your despair. Weep before God if you need to, pour out your heart to God, even if it’s in anger or fear. I assure you, God can take it.
Wait in prayer. Discipline yourself to be thankful, to remind yourself before God of the good things you have received at God’s hand. Tune your heart to sing God’s praise, to rejoice before God in God’s great love and faithfulness. Walk with others who cultivate grateful spirits.
But even if all you can pray is, “Lord, have mercy,” wait in prayer.
Finally, while you wait, prepare. When we’re waiting for the Lord, we need to prepare for the Lord to come—the perennial Advent cry of John the Baptist. Here’s where the idea of repentance comes in: “repentance” has the idea of “changing your mind” about something, changing the way you think about something and then living differently because of that.
So while you wait, prepare. Take stock of where you’re at. Step away from the hustle and bustle of life and turn your gaze on your own heart and mind, your deep-seated attitudes and gut-wrenching feelings. Examine the way you are treating others, the way you are living. And repent: change your perspective where needed, and then start living out that changed perspective.
Wait in hope. Wait in prayer. And while you wait, prepare.
Then, when Jesus comes—and he will come—you’ll be ready.