I am sick of waiting – literally sick and tired of it. I’m tired of waiting to get closer than six feet to loved ones who are outside my social bubble, waiting for a decision on Medical Assistance in Dying to be rightfully dealt with in Canada, waiting for my neighbour to say “yes” to Jesus, and waiting for the CRCNA to deal wholesomely with the questions of Human Sexuality. The list goes on.
Interestingly, at just about the time I have “had it up to here” with all this waiting, I find myself faced with Advent – defined as “the season of waiting.” Advent has actually kicked off the church calendar for millenia.
Whereas one might typically find solace in a secular New Year’s turn of the calendar, because you get a chance to start again with new resolutions, the church calendar kicks off its new year inviting one into waiting.
Advent is meant to draw our attention both to the waiting for Christ’s arrival in nativity, but also to his second coming when all of our waiting will be done and all things will be made right. I would suggest that ever since Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden, waiting has been our primary posture, and its close cousins of “perseverance” and “endurance” have become our primary human discipline. No wonder the psalmists cry out “How Long?”
Waiting is more than personal. It’s also corporate. In my work as a denominational leader I am called, together with co-leaders, to go beyond simply waiting, and instead venture headlong into the intentional pursuit of change and growth in common ministry. Your local church is called to do the same. Sometimes, such pursuits seem foolish.
Until you realize this one thing: God is also waiting. God endures and perseveres while he watches his world suffer in its prolonged brokenness. God also embodies a kind of hopeful waiting that is at the core of His being. “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3).
God’s waiting is marked by patience. Patience to act at just the right time for setting things right again. And to ensure that full repentance is possible. God’s waiting is motivated by the desire for change. God’s waiting is motivated by gospel witness and missional growth! It’s a proactive waiting. It’s the kind of waiting that places Jesus as an infant in Bethlehem at just the right time in human history; the kind of waiting that allows Jesus to say to his mother at the wedding in Cana, “My time has not yet come.” It’s the kind of waiting that has in its sight, the work of the cross 30+years later outside of Jerusalem.
This kind of waiting best reflects the meaning of the two most common words for waiting in the Old Testament: yachal and qavah. One has the sense of “hoping expectantly” and the other of “binding together.” They are words for waiting that look forward with joint purpose.
Until the world is as it’s supposed to be, we will wait. Get used to it. And whether it is with your local church, with the government, or with your denomination and their given issues of concern, we can go beyond endurance to its most hopeful and strategic expression: Jesus Christ, “Hope” wrapped in swaddling clothes!
This article was made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.