Preparing to Wait

Preparing to Wait November 25, 2019

Preparing to wait….Wait. Isn’t that the same as waiting? How does one begin to wait for the act of waiting? Nonetheless, this next week, I am actively waiting to wait. Advent, the Season of Waiting will soon be here.

The conclusion the liturgical year is upon us. Christians, the world over, will be worshiping and celebrating the new year. Not January 1, as other do. But celebrating, commemorating, a way of counting days that is “not of this world,” but of another reign.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Though I grew up in a mildly liturgical church, none of the ritual seemed to penetrate. I didn’t notice a difference between Epiphany and Lent. I do remember Advent, Christmas, and Easter. That was about it. Both Easter and Christmas, though high-points with gifts, big meals, cookies, and candy, it was Advent that I remember most. The season of waiting. We knew Christmas coming soon, waiting seemed interminable. Waiting seemed like teasing a dog with bone out of reach.  Waiting was the hardest part.

The Waiting, Geffen Records, 1981

Preparing to Wait

I have childhood memories of waiting. Christmas decorations, shaped and decorated cookies. The discovery that people sent cakes in the mail. Greeting cards. Those were all standard. But at church – and when church came home – I remember candles. An Advent wreath with four little candles was on our kitchen table. I don’t remember if we did it every year. But I do remember being bored and distracted while someone read the devotional. What I remember is wanting to be the one to light the candles.

That tradition never caught on in my household as an adult. I think Sundays, as a pastor, for me at least, meant down-time. By the time 1pm on a Sunday came around, I’d have a headache, feel exhausted, and just wanted to curl up on the couch and either watch old movies or sports.

Waiting Begins Soon

Advent is a season of waiting. I have another week to wait for it. Many years I have planned things for church, sermons, worship, bible studies, and Advent activities. But I usually forget my own personal engagement with the Season of Waiting. Last year, so as not to be caught off guard, I set multiple calendar reminders to get two books off the shelf. These two have been reliable guides for Advent in years past.

The Vigil

Wendy Wright’s book, The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming, is a guide into the Season of Waiting all the way through Epiphany. I read this book at least a dozen times since a friend gave me the book in 1992. Written as a vigil guide, there is a certain vigilance to the writing. Ever aware, open, and expecting glimpses into the encroaching gift of light.

Organized in three movements, The Vigil guides through waiting, the coming, and living the season. The last movement, living the season lastingly impressed on me the twelve-day season of Christmas. Though as a family, we had practiced a tradition of celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, Wright points one to consider the world’s and the soul’s yearning through the dark, seeking and practicing peace, and living in light.

God is in the Manger

One of the voices that never seems to refrain from speaking insight into our contemporary struggles is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, is a collection of passages from Bonhoeffer’s writings with scriptures for reflection. The pieces are short and easily read in a few minutes – but worthy of dwelling on for days.

On the Season of Waiting, there is a helplessness. One cannot make the awaited for dawn arrive any sooner that it will. Our effort is without effect. On Advent, Bonhoeffer writes from his own experience, saying:

Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that or the other – things that are really of no consequence – the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside” (Letters and Papers from Prison, 135).

Waiting to Wait

The Season of Waiting is coming. In year’s past, the festivities and decorations, songs and greetings, have washed over me leaving me numb, sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes anxious. As if something has quietly edged itself into my world. Unprepared, I pushed it aside since I had my own responsibilities and agenda to attend to. But then, like the busy folks in Jerusalem in Matthew’s telling of Jesus birth, I find I have missed the joy and wonder. The wandering magi, have been waiting, actively preparing, and journeying. They find reward for their waiting. I don’t want to miss the wonder.

I invite you to join with me as I read these books. If you have them, or want to get them, let’s go through this Advent and Christmas together. I will be jotting notes, reflections, and maybe occasional diatribes inspired by these books.

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