It’s the Advent season for many people, a time that uses many images of waiting. Waiting for Emmanuel to come. Waiting for God to intervene. Waiting for dawn to arrive. Waiting for something different to happen. One common image is the pregnant woman waiting to give birth, which ties into the nativity story.
We all spend a lot of our lives waiting for various things. Maybe the question is: What are we waiting for? And when does the waiting end?
So much of our religion — Christian and others, too — has become about waiting. Waiting for heaven. Waiting for God to respond to a prayer and to change something. Waiting for God to right the wrongs. Waiting for God to set things straight. Waiting for the world to change. Waiting and waiting and waiting.
What if we‘ve got it backward? What if someone is waiting on us?
Many of us commemorate the birth of Jesus, a Jewish rabbi who was passionate about the here and now. Give food and drink to whoever is hungry and thirsty today. Go and visit those who are imprisoned at this moment. Stop and help the person bleeding by the side of the road right now. Instead of waiting a day for the Sabbath to end, heal the wounded person right now. And do all this no matter what it costs you.
Don’t wait. Do it now.
In his book “The Power of Parable,” John Dominic Crossan points out that Jesus was all about what we do in the moment: “You have been waiting for God, he said, while God has been waiting for you. No wonder nothing is happening. You want God’s intervention, he said, while God wants your collaboration. God’s kingdom is here, but only insofar as you accept it, enter it, live it, and thereby establish it.”
God is waiting for us. God is at work right now. Are we ready to join in?
One image that’s common to so many religions is that of a feast that draws many people together. Many of us have just celebrated Thanksgiving by sharing a large meal with people who are important to us. We got up early, prepared the turkey and put it in the oven, then waited for it to get done. But our waiting was very busy.
We had to peel and cook the potatoes, prepare the vegetables, clean the house, set the table and get ready for our guests. We didn‘t just sit there and wait for the turkey to get done. If we did that, we wouldn’t have much of a feast at all.
There’s so much to be done right now — needy people to be helped, hurting people to be healed, conflicts to be calmed, societies to be changed, hatred to be transformed into love.
What are we waiting for?
If all we do is sit and wait on God, we’re like people trapped in a perpetual state of Advent. We never do what God is all about. We never put ourselves in the moment.
We never get to our own Christmas morning.