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A thought in Advent

Sue Henderson
4 September 2019

I love this watching and waiting season of Advent. I love all the preparations that have to be made. I never lose the feeling of expectancy and hush as Christmas Eve turns into Christmas Day. Perhaps I am just a child at heart — but is that a bad thing?

There is something in this time about waiting — about being prepared — for something new — waiting for cards and presents — getting the house ready with decorations, trimming the tree, preparing the food — getting everything ready.

In nature too it’s a season of waiting. We look at creation in the autumn with all the amazing colours in nature’s palette at that time and then see the leaves gradually falling from the trees. But things are not dying — but getting ready — waiting — beneath every falling leaf is a bud — ready, waiting, for new birth and new growth in the spring.

It’s the season for waiting. and, it’s just exactly what we need right now. Waiting is the antidote to a world gone mad in the holiday rush.

That is why Advent in the life of our church and in the life of our world is so important. We are waiting on the coming of the Lord. At Christmas, we wait to celebrate an event that has already happened — the birth of the Christ child, Jesus. During Advent, we wait for an event that is yet to happen — the second coming of that same Jesus as Lord and King. It’s all waiting.

Much as I hate to wait — I’ve discovered something remarkable about waiting. There is much that God cannot do in my life unless I wait. There is much God will not do in my life, until I wait. At least as important as the things for which I wait is the work God wants to do in my life while I wait. Read that again. It does make sense!

The Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen said, “Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.”

Advent is about being present to God — journeying back — returning — coming home to the deepest part of ourselves where we sense and know the presence of God around and within us.

God’s desire is to be present to us, to be in relationship with us — constantly creating us and bringing us to birth as we move deeper into that relationship. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says to Israel and to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.’ We don’t always see this working out in our own lives, but just occasionally we are given glimpses, inklings in our own experience that show us that this is indeed God’s desire. We can catch just a little of the dream that is God’s dream for the us and for the universe.

We need to take time in this Advent season to savour the presence of God — to understand something of God’s desire, God’s dream for us and in us — connecting, or beginning to connect with that deep centre within where God dwells.

This can all be summed up in a little Advent poem called Maybe by Thom M Shuman in the book Candles and Conifers:

Maybe it is in the waiting for God,
not in the wandering from store to store,
that we find our way.
Maybe it is in the friendship of God,
not in the frenzy of the crowds,
that we are led to the manger.
Maybe it is in the steadfast love of God,
and not in the pile of stuff under the tree,
that we find what we have been searching for all our lives.
Maybe, just maybe, God of Advent,
this year will be different.
Maybe, just maybe,
we will let you lead us to Bethlehem.

Take time amidst all the preparations to step back, be still and remember that this is time for waiting — waiting for the greatest gift that has ever been given — the gift of Emmanuel, God with us.

May peace be yours as you wait during Advent and may Christmas bring you joy in all its fullness.