Pastor’s Patch – December 2017
WAITING Traditionally in Church History, Advent is the season of preparing and waiting for 24 days. Christmas itself is then celebrated for 12 days. Modern society, by contrast, seems to have got very muddled in its approach – for the preparation and waiting for Christmas seems to commence in the shops selling their wares somewhere in September, and Christmas itself is pretty much over by lunchtime when people go online to buy more “stuff”.
As Christians, it is so easy to get sucked up into this way of thinking and living. If that’s the case, where did we go so wrong? It could well be that we have lost the art of waiting. Advent concentrates the waiting, Christmas prolongs the celebrating. I confess that I am easily swayed by the rush of our culture; I too have little patience for waiting.
This was highlighted when I attended a two-day prayer retreat in November organized by the Order for Baptist Ministers; the theme was “waiting”. As we reflected together that waiting is so undervalued in modern life and yet how it is so valuable in spiritual growth. Waiting is not only necessary, it is beneficial. God’s Word seems to concur with this. The psalmist encourages us to
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27 v14) - And again
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield (Psalm 33 v20) And if God’s people tell us to wait, then surely the Lord has sent that message through them, so they are His words, it is His encouragement to us.
So let us this December reset the clock. May we as a congregation consider the value, even the beauty of waiting. Even a cursory glance through scripture reveals many periods of waiting. Abraham waited 25 years for a promised son to be born to his wife Sarah. The Israelites waited for their release from slavery, and then waited for their wilderness wanderings to lead them to the promised land. Later in their history they needed to wait for seventy years in exile before they could return. And Jesus was waited and expected not just for decades, but for centuries.
Whilst on the retreat I imagined, and crudely drew this picture. On the key is written the word “waiting”. The key is being offered up to a dark-filled keyhole. I sensed that for me, waiting was actually a key for me to progress through the next stage in life. Thus, I am aiming to learn to be better at waiting, especially this Advent.
As a couple of practical prompts to remind me of this, I’m trying to walk slowly wherever I go and celebrate the journey as well as the destination. I’m also chewing my food more times than normal, savouring the taste rather than rushing to finish the meal. You may smirk at my ideas, but they are helpful for me.
If you find it hard to wait, why not develop a couple of ways to help you wait and see what benefits arise? You will need to discern what works for you, but it could be well worth it. We’ll just have to wait and see though, won’t we?