“The season of Advent gives us the opportunity to practice something that is hard for most of us to do: wait. Advent, which literally means “arrival,” teaches us to wait for the coming of Christ, not just way back in Biblical times, but now—in the places where we long for his presence and need his intervention. Advent ushers us into a special kind of waiting that is alert and watchful, patient and yet full of anticipation.” Excerpt from Advent Reflection– Ruth Haley Barton
During Advent we practice the spiritual discipline of waiting on three levels: we wait for the coming of Christ and the celebration of his literal birth. We become aware of those places where we long to experience Christ’s presence more fully in our lives right now. And we wait for his expectant coming again someday in glory.
But let’s face it, sometimes we get tired of waiting. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we cry with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”
Yet Scripture give us an amazing promise when we embrace the waiting:
“That is why waiting does not diminish us any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” Romans 8:24 TM
Waiting enlarges our souls. Mary understood this kind of waiting as each day the baby in her womb grew larger and larger. She waited, trusting that something would happen to her far beyond her own imagination, giving up control over her future and letting God define her life.
This is not mere passivity; it is an active waiting that is alert and watchful, full of anticipation and yet willing to be patient. Henri Nouwen calls Advent waiting “active waiting.” He writes, “Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”
To wait, like Mary, open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. Advent honors this place of waiting knowing that what is happening in us is worth waiting for. Advent reminds us that God is present and active even when it feels like nothing is happening.
Psalm 130:6 – “My soul waits for the Lord.”
Questions for Reflection:
What have you been waiting for?
How can you wait more actively?