(This is a reprise of my 2012 Advent series – enjoy!)
As soon as you enter a waiting room, you start to feel uncomfortable. There is something about the not-knowing how long you will be there for. And then there’s the uncertainty of what the doctor or whoever it is will say when you finally get in. You rehearse what you will say. You get fidgety and keep looking at your watch. The silence is an irritable one; the cloud of stress arising from a room full of people with loud sighs and annoying movements, and their own worries and preoccupations. You make a beeline for the nearest magazine and read with alacrity, wanting to distract yourself, redeem the time somehow. You hover between some banal gossip column and the ticking of the clock, feeling restless and in-between.
And then, when the call finally comes, you never feel prepared. It always feels like an unexpected and rude interruption, though it was what you were waiting for, all along.
Pregnancy is a time of waiting.
The hard thing about those first few weeks of pregnancy is the not knowing – really, for sure. I wonder about Mary. Cycles can be irregular. In the days before ultrasounds, it would probably have been almost four months before the bulge was prominent enough to be confident, before she felt that confirmative kick to know that it was a new life and not a tumour growing inside her, making her feel so ill.
What were her thoughts in that in-between time? The time of nurturing that secret? Did she hold on with certainty to the words the angel gave her, or were there moments of doubt, self-questioning?
Pregnancy is a decidedly passive way of growing a human. You can’t do anything, you can’t control it or design it, just trust that it is happening. You can but wait, and leave it to nature and the goodness of God.
“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” (James 5:7 NIV)
We are also called to be ones who wait.
For all the doing, the rushing of this life and our Christian endeavours, this is a very passive command. It calls us to trust in what we can’t see, recalling and leaning on God’s words as Mary did, choosing God’s promise over our self-doubt. We wait for Christ’s return, living in the in-between, without knowing when it will be. To wait is to surrender our control. To wait is to trust in God.
When that Day comes, it will undoubtedly feel like an unexpected interruption, no matter how prepared we think we have been. There are too many magazines in this life for us to flip through, it is too difficult to wholly commit ourselves to live in a state of constant preparedness to really acknowledge that this day could be our last. We are so easily distracted.
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”(Romans 8:23-25 NIV)
I don’t want to wait for heaven with a sense of impatience and irritation at this world. I want to remember that Jesus is coming again, and that He will bring restoration in His timing.
I want to wait like Mary, in hope, trusting that God is at work in the silence and the dark places. I want to know that He who has promised is faithful, and He will do it.
Advent means ‘coming’. For ages I really didn’t understand Advent. Then a few years ago, a preacher explained that, traditionally, Advent preaching would focus not on the incarnation but on the return of Jesus; not on his first coming but his second coming. It was meant to be a penitential season, a time to pause and reflect.
I want to reflect that double perspective in these four Tuesdays before Christmas – exploring themes in the Christmas story and applying them to us as we wait for Christ’s return. We’ll be simultaneously meditating on Christ’s first coming and second coming.
Over to you:
- How good are you at waiting? Do you see waiting as a spiritual discipline?