(This may seem strange, an Advent Sermon from 2008 in late, cruel April, 2021. But 'waiting' is important to us right now. Vaccines are being given every day--but we're nowhere near 'herd immunity' needed to go back to normal. We need to be patient and to 'wait'. Wear your masks. Encourage all you no to get the vaccine. Take care unless everyone you are around have been fully vaccinated--and even then, stay safe. People all over the country are longing to be back to whatever 'normal' will be. But it's not time yet. "Waiting" can teach us patience and contemplation and open us to new possibilities. "Wait" my dear readers, do not go forward too soon.)
I was going to do some nonsense like saying ‘wait a minute’ and going into the vesting room and then the back of the church and then around the yard. And then come back and say to you “How was that for you? Isn’t it a pain to be kept waiting?” But then I realized all that business would have either worried you or made you question my sanity—which maybe you should…
But it’s true, none of us like to “wait”. It’s the worst thing in the world.
Doctors’ offices, public offices, the grocery store, even ‘drive through’ lanes—we all hate to wait.
I was one of those people who didn’t get a letter about my license plate expiring so I was pulled over and had to go to Motor Vehicles in Hamden to get new license plates. Talk about waiting! The only thing, I believe, that kept there from being a riot is people were all looking at the phones as we moved up a step or two at a time. I, myself, was reading a book I’d brought.
We hate to wait.
Yet…Yet…Isaiah tells us in today’s lesson “…no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who WAIT on God…”
And the season of the year that begins today—ADVENT—calls us to “wait” …to “wait upon the Lord” ….to have patience and focus and concentration and to WAIT, to WAIT….
During the Thanksgiving holiday, I spent most of four days with four granddaughters—Emma and Morgan who are 11, Tegan, who is 8, and 16- month-old Eleanor. “Wait” is not a word that Eleanor understands.
She reminded me of a poster I used to have in my office in the first parish I served as a priest. The poster said: GOD GIVE ME PATIENCE…RIGHT NOW!!!
We are not much different from Eleanor….We don’t know the meaning of the word “WAIT”.
I can do the little things this time of year. I saw people driving by our house on Friday with Christmas trees tied to the roofs of their cars. We avoid putting up our Christmas trees until it is a little closer to the actual day—though they may be out on our front porch for a while. But we don’t decorate them until the week before Christmas—we “wait” for a while.
And we, as a church, avoid singing Christmas Carols during the Advent services. We “wait” until Christmas is actually here.
But those are minor things—little waitings…. Besides there are Christmas decorations everywhere and carols all around us. I’m even humming “O Holy Night” in my head right now….
Yet we are called to “wait”—to wait and watch and listen. “Waiting” is not a passive activity…it is full of focus and attentiveness and ‘watching’.
“Waiting” is only boring and painful if we see it as something ‘passive’.
“Waiting” is full of action.
Back where I grew up, in the narrow valleys of the West Virginia mountains, there were signs beside every railroad crossing. The coal from where I grew up, went to Pittsburgh to make steel and to Roanoke to make electricity. And it got to those places by the railroads.
So, there were lots of railroad crossings on the narrow, two lane roads. And there were lots of signs to remind us of three things: STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.
The signs were in the shape of an X. They were always white with black letters that said: STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.
The mountains were so high and the valleys so narrow, that often simply stopping and looking wasn’t enough. You had to ‘listen’ for the train coming.
Advent is like that. We are called to “wait”—and to stop, look and listen. The mountains of life are so high and the valleys so narrow, that it isn’t enough to simply ‘stop and look’. We must listen as well.
“Waiting” is an important, profound and vital way to live. We must ‘wait’ for the moment—the right time, the opportunity, the revelation, the truth and wonder. We can’t hurry it along. We must learn the difficult lesson of patience. We must wait—ready, expectant, awake—for the Moment to come.
It is God we wait for, after all. And God will come in God’s own time.
But when God comes, we must be ready and awake and eager to welcome what is Holy, what is Wondrous, what is True. God ‘WILL COME’. Believe that as if your life depended on it—because, in a real way, it does….
Wait a moment!
Just like that.