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December 8, 2016, 9:26 AM

Hurry Up and… Wait

I’ll admit it, I do not like to sit and wait.  I especially do not like having to wait unexpectedly when deadlines approach and when I have “things to do.”  I suspect I am not alone in this opinion.  Often, we wait only because we have to.  Waiting makes us anxious or annoyed that precious time is being wasted.  But waiting is not a bad thing.  Waiting gives us a chance to pause, to ask questions, and to anticipate the future. 

And so, as we encounter the readings from Matthew and the prophets this Advent, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves, what do they say to us this year?  Where are we in these stories?  How are these stories with us today?  Since Advent means “coming,” in what ways will Christ be coming to us at Holy Spirit in the year ahead?  

The human experience of longing is at the center of Advent.  Children long for Christmas—and the presents that come with that day.  But as we grow older, don’t the presents lose their luster—at least a little?  Instead of presents, we long for answers to life’s questions.  We discover that possessing something does not still our desire; we long for something more. Advent allows us a time each year to become more attentive to the things we still long for in life.  Maybe we long for justice and righteousness like the prophets Malachi and Jeremiah did.  Maybe we long for a future that is more than the sum of past and present.  Maybe we long to heal broken relationships, or to renew relationships that somehow got lost in the “hustle and bustle” we subject ourselves to.  Maybe we just long for peace—peace within ourselves and peace in world divided by opposing political views.

This longing in Advent is a sign of the church at odds with our culture.  In a time that says “you can watch your favorite shows and movies ‘on demand’” Advent says “Wait.” (You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. -James 5:8, NRSV)  To the commercials that say “you can turn your phone into a virtual reality headset now,”1 Advent says “hope for something you may never see in this life.” (The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6, NRSV).  To an era that says “conform,” Advent says, “You have shown strength with your arm and scattered the proud in their conceit, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly.  You have filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51-3, NRSV).

Blue as a color for Advent gives us direction for our longing, for blue is the color both of the sea and the sky.  Our yearning reaches to the profound and to the lofty, to the very depths of our being and to the glory of heaven.  It is a longing for what we were intended to be as individuals and as the community of Holy Spirit Lutheran Church.  Blue symbolizes our hope for what we could become and for what is making its way into the present.  As Romans 15: 4-6 reminds us on the Second Sunday of Advent this year, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (NRSV)

As we anticipate and long for the coming of our Savior this Advent season, ask yourself, “what is it that I am waiting for this Advent?  What is it that I hope Christ will bring as he comes to me in the year ahead?” 

 -Pastor Nathan

1If you have no idea what a virtual reality headset is, here is a sample commercial: ).
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