Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Meaning Is In The Waiting

Waiting is increasingly a strange notion. After all, we have microwaves for fast instant food. We have cell phones for instant access. We have digital books for instant download. We have google for instant answers. We are increasingly impatient when something is not forthcoming as quickly as we think it should be.

Then we have Christmas.
It starts in August and is celebrated sometimes until January.
What happened to looking forward to Christmas?
What happened to saving the dessert for after dinner?

Why is Christmas in full swing as soon as the Halloween candy is on sale?

Advent is a time of waiting.
Advent is a time of anticipating.
Advent is a time of looking forward to the coming of Christ.
To quote the book, The Meaning Is In The Waiting,
 "Advent lies in waiting. Waiting rests not in frustration but in stillness. Not frenzied anticipation but in embracing the present. We need to relearn how to wait, to rediscover the act of savoring the future of staying in the present and of finding meaning in the act of waiting."

The first Advent candle was lit today. The first candle represents Abraham and Sarah, our ancestors in the faith, the patriarch of our Savior. And it represents expectation. The expectation that God will follow through with His promises. The expectation that our waiting is not in vain.

Abram was called to wait. He packed up his household, turned down his birthright, (unheard of!) and was sent on a journey to a new land...but he had to wait to find out where it was.
He was promised a great nation, but had no children until his old age. He was called to wait for the child who would fulfill that promise. Even then, he did not live to see the nation that came from his waiting.

Abram's call was to wait, but it was also to change. We know he had had big change in his life already: His father had moved the family once, establishing himself in a new town with new acquaintances and associates. But here he was, asked to make changes again. Leave his father's house, his relatives, his inheritance, to go to an uncertain place.

One thing I learned while in Israel was that Hebrews have a way of thinking that is completely different. They're always changing. They're always doing things differently. The lady I was traveling with has been in Israel many many years. She was even recently there just a couple months before I visited. Yet she remarked constantly on how things had changed even from when she was there a couple months before. Israelis have no problem changing the way they do things.

It strikes me that maybe they get this from their patriarch.

Quote: "The voice that spoke to Abram still speaks to us: "Go, from the things that bind you, from the sense of your own identity, from your day-to-day way of being to something that I shall show you." God calls, and waits for our response....
God's call to us remains a call to change; to leaving and accompanying, to moving and changing, to growing and flourishing. It is part of human nature to yearn for stability, to put down roots, and to stay put; but it is also a rule of nature that things that do not move do not live. Water that does not move becomes stagnant, and in the same way when we do not move we become sluggish and hard to change. God's call does not necessarily ask us to move our physical surroundings, (although sometimes it does); most often it asks us to move our internal surroundings, to be prepared to be changed and transformed." 

We are asked to wait. We are asked to change. We change in the waiting. Waiting is an essential part of our journey with God.

Abraham was asked to change, was asked to wait. He moved forward, not knowing exactly where his journey was leading. He and Sarah were promised a family, a land, a nation. They thought they had waited in vain for the family to materialize. They became anxious and tried to fix up for themselves how it would all work out. But Ishmael was not the child God was planning to use to form this nation.
In the end, after all the pain of waiting, all the anxiety of the unknown, of not knowing exactly where they were headed  or how it would work out, they finally had their promise fulfilled. Isaac was born. He grew, and then God did an unexpected thing: He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham prepares to do so, but what questions must have run through his mind. How could he now have another son to fill the spot of Isaac? How about the nation that would outnumber the stars? Yet in faith Abraham acted, and God provided a sacrifice instead of Isaac.

Abraham and Sarah became symbols for us not only of faith but also of waiting: of waiting as an essential part of our journey with God, of waiting being vital for the proper unfolding of God's plan, and of waiting being as important as that for which we wait. God summons us to go out but does not always tell us where to, or why...for that we must wait, but in the waiting we can, sometimes, discover a meaning.

The first candle is for Expectation. The first candle is for the Patriarchs of our faith. Who often had to wait.

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