December -- 2020
The colors of Advent are purple or deep blue. The days are short. The long dark nights mark the end of the growing season for those of us in the Northwest. Long nights are also invitations for dreaming: imagine seeds planted for new growth, patiently waiting to begin stretching; imagine sheltering a mother and child some 2000 years ago and, at this moment, feeding thousands of unemployed who are hungry and waiting in line; imagine peace prevailing in our hurting world; imagine God all in all.
Advent is the season for watching and waiting, imagining and dreaming. I think most of us are comfortable with watching, imagining, and dreaming. But do not ask us to wait. Waiting is that barren desert between where we are and where we want to go. And we do not like to be living in that in-between time. Let us do something to help us speed up time so we can move on.
To change our perception about waiting, let Henri Nouwen, in his devotional entitled Waiting for God, teach us a new way of thinking about Advent.
“Our waiting is always shaped by alertness to the word. It is waiting in the knowledge that someone wants to address us. The question is, are we home? Are we at our address, ready to respond to the doorbell? We need to wait together to keep each other at home spiritually, so that when the word comes it can become flesh in us. That is why the book of God is always in the midst of those who gather. We read the word so that the word can become flesh and have a whole new life in us.
Simone Weil, a Jewish writer, said, ‘Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.’ When Jesus speaks about the end of time, he speaks precisely about the importance of waiting. He says that nations will fight against nations and there will be wars and earthquakes and misery. People will be in agony, and they will say, “The Christ is here! No, he is here!” Everybody will be totally upset, and many will be deceived. But Jesus says you must stand ready, stay awake, stay tuned to the word of God, so that you will survive all that is going to happen and be able to stand confidently (con-fide, with trust) in the presence of God together in community (see Mt. 2:4). That is the attitude of waiting that allows us to be people who can live in a very chaotic world and survive spiritually.”
This was written in 2001. It seems very fitting for today. Thank you, Henri, for your timeless wisdom.