Have we gotten rid of the need to be patient? Computers, internet, high speed technology have made available information at the click of a mouse. Apps on our mobile phones tell us the exact time of our bus arriving so that we don’t waste away minutes waiting. To a certain extent we become agitated when we have to wait. How do we now cope with Advent, an extended time of waiting?
Henri Nouwen says Advent is not like waiting for a bus to arrive. Rather, “it is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.”
It isn’t difficult to cope with waiting for Christmas Day to arrive. We know for certain when it will arrive. Then we cunningly fill the wait time with parties to celebrate Christmas. Maybe as Nouwen suggest “to live the present moment”? But Advent isn’t about waiting for the big party. Advent teaches us to wait for the Lord to come into the many various challenges we struggle with in daily life. There is no visible timeline, no red letter date circled on the calendar. We wait in darkness, clinging on to hope.
Christmas is about Emmanuel, “God with us”. Christmas is about the Son of God coming to be human like us to journey with us through our earthly life. An inescapable part of our earthly life is the presence of suffering. In all of our sufferings we are invited into an advent, to wait for the Lord to take away our sufferings, to lighten the load on our journey. We pray, we hope, we agitate for him to appear.
Nouwen calls for an “active waiting” but suggests that we be fully alive to this wait. Often we are preoccupied waiting for what we expect of God, blinding ourselves to his unexpected answers and interventions. Nouwen tell us to be aware at each “present moment” in order to see “the signs of the One”. For Christmas comes every day especially when we are challenged; for God is with us, he is amongst us in daily life.
Angels abound in the stories of Advent, but angels abound too in the stories of our daily life. Emmanuel, God has come to be with us in every of our challenges. One of the most visible presence of God when he intervenes in our daily life are the people present to us in the situation. Always God uses the people around us to help us. Often they are strangers appearing as if a coincidence with a timely act, saving the day. These strangers are our angels; they make visible Emmanuel, God with us.
God is often found in the little details of life. It must be so especially if He is a perpetual presence. Being fully aware to the present moment allows us to sense the presence of God, to see Him in the other person and to gratefully accept the helping hand of the stranger because we are alert to know that this is the helping hand of God. Being fully aware of the presence of God will also allow us to realise that God often answer our prayers with a different but better answer. Being stuck in our own expectations can blind us to the fact that God had already answered our prayer quite long ago. We were waiting for nothing.
In His time. There were 42 generations between Abraham and that first Christmas. Even by God’s own standard, that’s a mighty long time to wait. But a lot happened in that long time, our salvation history was sketched. So it in in our personal advent when we wait for God to appear in our troubles. Be aware that at each point he is present and intervening to sketch our own personal salvation.
The click of the mouse is a blessing. It takes away unnecessary wait leaving us more time to spend in advent to know that God is with us. Let us rediscover wait. Merry Christmas.