John the Baptist proclaimed good news to people, but he said, "one who is more powerful than I is coming." Advent means "coming." It is a season that recognizes both the darkness around us and the coming of the Light. We wait on the one who comes with mercy and redemption. As Jesus says in his parable, "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near."
It is a time when we await the coming of the Light, but it is also a time when we recognize the darkness, or the need for the Light, as the gospel of Luke says, "People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." It is a season of waiting in the darkness, but of waiting for the Light.
To say that we embrace the waiting does not mean that we relish in the darkness. However, we embrace the waiting by how we wait, for our waiting has meaning.
Imagine we are waiting for a guest to arrive from out of town. We have not seen our sister in several years because she has been caring for her husband, who has been ill for quite some time. She is finally able to come for the holidays, and we cannot wait. She is driving from three states away, but she is leaving early in morning, so she should arrive by the end of the day.
We have been busy all afternoon, but we have not accomplished anything. We have to do everything twice because we are not thinking straight, for we are so excited. Pots have been boiling, and the oven has remained hot, but dinner is still not finished. We keep running to the window at the front of the house to see if she has arrived yet. We keep expecting to see her car in the driveway. Every time we catch a glimpse of a car driving by, we stop what we are doing immediately, and we run to the window again, only to see that it is the neighbor's car.
We have also missed every phone call all afternoon, letting each call go to voicemail, because we do not want the phone to be busy if our sister calls. We have kept the phone close by, in fact, we have checked to see if we have missed a call from our sister about ten times in the span of a couple hours. All of our waiting has been filled with frantic energy. We have felt scattered and torn. Our family has felt that we have been distant because our mind has been somewhere else.
We have washed the same load of laundry twice without realizing it, just moving clothes from machine to machine. We keep tripping over the rug in the hallway, as we run to look out the front window. It is like sitting in a waiting room and trying to distract ourselves until our name is called. We are simply trying to "pass the time."
This is not the waiting of Advent. In Advent, we do not want to "pass the time;" rather, we seek the "fullness of time." This is how we embrace the waiting, as we await the coming of the Light.
Instead of frantic energy and endless distractions, we could spend the afternoon in the guest room of the house, preparing it for when our sister arrives. We wash all of the sheets and make the bed. We put fresh towels in the bathroom. We find the quilt that our grandmother made, and place it carefully on the end of the bed, so our sister can remember those childhood memories and feel the warmth of family.
We drive to the store about five miles down the road and buy a candle that smells like lavender because it is our sister's favorite scent. She used to burn lavender candles in her room growing up. We sit down around the kitchen table with our children, setting out construction paper and scissors, as they create "welcome" cards for their aunt. We also change all of the pictures in the guest room, putting other pictures in the frames of our sister with our children or of us as children together. We make sure everything is ready.
This is how we seek the "fullness of time," where the waiting has meaning. We wait in such a manner that acts as if our guest is already here. In Advent, we wait in such a manner that acts as if Christ is already fully here. We live as if the kingdom of God is already fully present, not with constant distractions, but living with intention, purpose, and meaning, seeking the "fullness of time."
One way that we prepare a place for Christ is by preparing a safe place for others, treating them as guests in our lives. There are those who have been living in a deep season of Advent, waiting upon waiting, hoping against hope, looking for a glimmer of light. We look for those people around us because Advent not only waits on the Light, it also recognizes the darkness.
Our lives can become a safe place for others by choosing words of gentleness, denying words of quick judgment, choosing actions of humble mercy, refraining from actions of callous denial. We can create a safe place for another, where our gentle words protect them from further harm and where our actions offer them some small relief. We can wait in the "fullness of time," as if today is already full of the presence of Christ.
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