(This is a piece for my church in the season of Advent)
As you can probably guess, so much of my time is spent waiting: for a doctor visit inside or outside the hospital, for a bed in the ER, for a bed in the hospital, for the nurse to bring medicine, for the medicine to work. These waits eventually have endpoints. Friends & family can empathize here, though it’s rare to find someone who gets the sheer volume of waiting in this season of chronic illness. Then, there is the other type of waiting in my life: for my gut to heal/function, for my body to strengthen, for my ability to work & play. These waits don’t have clear endpoints; they may never come. Friends & family can sympathize in small pieces (& I’m thankful for all those efforts) but it’s rare to find true empathy in this situation. This kind of waiting is lonely, isolating at times.
In her December newsletter, singer-songwriter Sara Groves captures the beauty of the Advent season – “ it seems to acknowledge the whole human experience, and to faithfully hold our realities in light of the fact that dawn/hope does in fact come! And that hope will not move about in some spiritual/ideological realm, but will be *with us* in every real way. The longing is real, the joy is real.”
I think of Advent as waiting “practice,” a sort of easier waiting, in that we become conscious of waiting but for a known outcome (the incarnation of Jesus arriving here) for a known time (the four weeks leading to Christmas). We can look at our waits and faithfully hold them with hope, a hope that does come & is real.
What I really love about Advent, especially in this difficult, sometimes lonely season of life, is that it brings us together, to wait together. It acknowledges the whole human experience, not just mine, not just yours, but our experiences across time and space as a human race waiting for dawn, for reconciliation, for healing. I feel so much less alone in my waiting as we explore Advent as a community. I realize I am not the first, or last, person to feel stuck in a long wait, wondering if/when my hope will be realized. I feel that hope realized in Mary’s song as she rejoices that the long-awaited promise is here – “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever (Luke 1:54-55).” She reminds us that this promise has been so long in the waiting. As we read her words, we can feel the wait & the weight of God’s people being lifted in the arrival of the long-promised Messiah. We can join each other in our waits, those of the individual and those of our community, knowing that the dawn/hope does in fact come & that it is “with us” in every real way.