Waiting Actively

I’ve always loved Advent, so does this man. He describes himself as an “Advent Christian“, and that’s not bad. We wait, looking forward to the day when we will be “Consummation Christians”, when we will not only see Him, but also be able to see how our work on earth was integral to His Kingdom on the earth.

The best reflections I know on ‘the spirituality of waiting’ come from Henri Nouwen, whose full thoughts can be heard (and bought!) here.  Below is an excerpt from him on this.

A question might be, not only how are we going to mark Advent this year, but how will we use these four short weeks to “actively wait” not only for Jesus, but with Jesus? One thing will be true in that answer for all of us….we wait with hope.

Blessings on us in this season of celebrating the first Advent and waiting for the next one!

From “Waiting For God” by Henri Nouwen:

Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something…

It impresses me, therefore, that all the figures who appear in the first pages of Luke’s Gospel are waiting. Elizabeth and Zechariah are waiting. Mary is waiting. Simeon and Anna, who were there at the temple when Jesus was brought in, are waiting. The whole opening of the good news is filled with waiting people. And right at the beginning all those people in someway or another hear the words, “Do not be afraid. I have something good to say to you.” These words set the tone and the context. Now Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary, Simeon and Anna are waiting for something new and good to happen to them…

Waiting, as we see it in the people on the first pages of the Gospel, is waiting with a sense of promise. “Zechariah,…your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son.” “Mary,…Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son” (Luke 1:13, 31). People who wait have received a promise that allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that has started to grow. This is very important. We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun for us. So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more. Zechariah, Mary, and Elizabeth were living with a promise that nurtured them, that fed them, and that made them able to stay where they were…

Second, waiting is active. Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands…But there is none of this passivity in scripture. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing…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…

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is awaiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful -waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.

Rev. Bill Haley is the Director of Formation at The Washington Institute and Associate rector at The Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia.

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