Contentment for Advent
(seems like there must be a clever wordplay there…but I keep coming back to ConVent…and I’m not quite sure that captures what we’re talking about here)
Advent Week 1: I hate waiting
Normally when I make a statement about something I like or dislike, I assume some people will agree, some will not. Waiting, however, is something so antithetical to a modern western worldview that it’s essentially impossible to imaging anyone disagreeing with my hatred of it.
Waiting is inefficient. Waiting means someone is not doing their job well, or well enough, or fast enough. Waiting means we don’t get to a few more things on our to-do list. Waiting means I reflexively pull out my phone because I HAVE to do SOMETHING.
Generally speaking we – as people – wait poorly.
We jockey for the quickest lane of traffic, the shortest line at the check-out, the fastest route home, the quickest path to get done.
Don’t get me wrong – I am just as much an ‘efficiency junky’ as anyone else – if no more so. And I still struggle with if/how/how much/ when that’s a good thing or completely not. Getting stuff done is great…right? But what about when our drive to get things done means we can’t stand any interruption into those plans.
What about when my push to not have to wait means I use the self-checkout (which I love) and online banking (which I honestly can’t live without) and shopping online (which I don’t know how I lived without)…..until suddenly I am so isolated from every other person that my day is spent optimizing human interaction right out of my life for the sake of not having to waste my time waiting ever, for anyone?
But advent really – at its core – is all about waiting.
Reflecting back to the people of God as they waited for hundreds of years for their Messiah to arrive.
Opening the doors of advent calendars, slowly counting down the days.
Consecutively lighting one more of the four candles every week as we anticipate celebrating the coming of the Chosen One.
As we look to the future for the coming back of that same Messiah.
For me, the hardest kind of waiting – for sure – is when the end is not known. Living in a culture that is drastically and fundamentally different from the one I grew up in means there are so many events that I just don’t understand. Things that I would have some sense of when they finish if I were in Canada, but I don’t here.
When is this road construction going to be finished?
OK, but WHEN is this new building going to be opened?
What do you mean by “SOON”
Why isn’t this task already done, I was told ‘almost’
How long will I stand in this line waiting to get my phone registered?
What do you mean the power is out, come back some other time?
These things put me on edge because I have no real sense of the ending. Which in some ways is the part I LOVE about advent.
Advent starts + Four Sundays ——> Christmas.
But at its heart, it’s of course so much more than that.
Christ first coming + WE HAVE NO IDEA ——> Christ Returns
That’s a hard kind of waiting. We live in what is so often called the ‘already, yet not yet’, the Saturday between Good Friday and Sunday. But we have no guess at all as to how much longer it lasts.
That’s probably good for us.
Forced to wait.
This is simple: go here. Every year for both Advent and Lent the Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts at Biola University puts together a daily series that includes: a piece of visual art, a poem, a piece of music, and a devotional thought all entered around a short biblical text. Every year they have a common theme that ties them all together. This Advent the theme is Canticles – those short songs found scattered throughout the Biblical narrative. I highly, highly, really, very much recommend it.
God outside of time,
you have created us finite in time and space.
We have been created with a sense of our own limited mortality,
and we have developed a sense of getting things done.
Give us rest,
Give us hope,
Give us peace…
In the waiting.
Help us to not just grit our teeth until it’s over,
But help us see what you are doing,
even in us,
during the waiting.