It seems that as the world becomes supposedly less complicated through technological advances, we still find ourselves waiting. Waiting for that package to arrive that we ordered online in record speed. Waiting in line at the self-checkout station at the supermarket, designed to eliminate the evils of waiting. Waiting for the phone to ring on Saturday night. Waiting for that great job to come along. Or waiting for that elusive perfect relationship. It never ends. Researchers tell us that the average person will spend 5 years of his or her life waiting in line, 2 years playing telephone tag, and six months sitting at red lights. That is over 7 and a half years of waiting, at best doing nothing, or at worst experiencing great aggravation! The bottom line is that even in our fast-paced world, with postmodern conveniences, we are all waiting for something. However, as strange as it sounds, during the Advent season, we discover a purpose to our waiting. Let me explain.
You think we have it rough, how about waiting thousands of years, not for something minor like groceries, but for the king whose eternal reign would end the oppression of the world? What do we think about thousands of people hoping and praying fervently for something miraculous to happen, while successive generations are born and pass away, without a hint of fulfillment? I am speaking here of the ancient Hebrew patriarchs, kings, prophets, and priests, who waited expectantly for the coming of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah expresses this hope:
Then, hundreds of years later, born in Bethlehem, a small town in the Roman Empire, their hope is finally realized, but with a twist, because Jesus is not the earthly warrior-king many expected. And even after waiting, the final realization of the Messiah's eternal reign is still yet to be seen, coming in the future, when the baby born in Bethlehem returns in power to judge the living and the dead. All of this makes our own waiting seem pretty insignificant. Somehow waiting five extra minutes for a dried out bun and a tiny piece of meat from a fast-food restaurant seems pretty trivial.
During the Advent season we symbolically participate in the waiting of the patriarchs, kings, prophets, and priests, as we await Christ's final and glorious return. Through prayer, liturgy, Eucharist, and the signs and symbols of Advent, we groan with Isaiah for a day when weapons will be turned into agricultural instruments. We cry out with Zechariah, rejoicing that the dawn from on high is breaking upon us. We pray with the likes of Adam, Job, Hannah, Solomon, Micah, and millions of others, named and unnamed, many whose expectations of the future kingdom may have been hazy, yet who still yearned for something more complete and more "real" than what they knew.
We legitimately cry out Maranatha, Come Lord!, with St. Paul. When God the Word became man in Christ, celebrated on Christmas day, the world was sanctified. Something in the fabric of the cosmos shifted as creation became a fitting vehicle for God's redemptive work. Human experiences have been sanctified as well, commemorated in our Church Year. Yes, as the season of Advent shows, even waiting has become sanctified.
As we wait in long lines this Advent season, or as we wait for anything really, I think it is important that we remember the waiting of those expecting the Messiah, and always wait with patience, humility, and expectant hope in a state of prayer. I know it is difficult, but especially during Advent, waiting prayerfully and patiently, in the manner of our Lord and his blessed Mother, is not only a good spiritual discipline, but could also lower our risk of holiday-induced blood pressure. It seems like we're all waiting for something, so why not use these experiences to enhance our Advent disciplines by prayerfully waiting, joining our prayers with Isaiah, Zechariah, and all the saints?
Taking it to the Streets Action Point:
When you will inevitably find yourself waiting for something this week guard against our first reaction to think about our own desires and become impatient. let's transform our thoughts to the others around us. The challenge this week will be when we find ourselves in line waiting to try one of two things: 1.) Start up a conversations with the person in front or behind us (especially if we don't know them.) 2.) Invite the person behind us to go ahead of us so they have less of a wait. You are welcome to try both!!
MSP Reflection >