Patience does not come easy for me. Some people just seem able to sit and wait eternally, plugging along with life, totally at ease about what may or may not come. These patient warriors are my heroes – they seem to have a peace about them that is always just out of my reach.
And here I am, writing about a whole season of waiting for a world hungry for peace and wholeness. Yet when I start to think about Advent, I tend to find my heart a bit impatient with this four-week long season of waiting.
For ministers, the season of Advent can be daunting – there are more services to plan, more social functions to be present for, more to prepare, more to organize…it can feel overwhelming and leave us just wishing the season were over already. Surely Christmas is soon, right? Any day now we can finally get a bit of respite. Any day, we’ll finally light that Christ candle…
And so, as I sit to write about Advent again, as I do each week preparing liturgy and prayers, I am reminded that I am as impatient sometimes as all those who wait upon the Lord, including those who waited lifetimes to see this Messiah born. A season of waiting is exactly what’s called for in many lives – mine included. Otherwise, we forget the benefits of waiting for our souls.
Waiting may be a busy time, as Advent is for ministers. Waiting may be a solemn time, as sickness is for the family of the dying. Waiting may be an anxious time, as joblessness is for those seeking work. But waiting may also be a promising time, as those awaiting the birth of the Christ child encountered.
Patience cultivates a fortitude in people – when we are patient, we learn to endure, even when circumstances are difficult. We persevere no matter our circumstances, and we do it with grace.
Patience also can cultivate attentiveness.
We are waiting patiently together while we meet for worship in this season. We are taking the needed time to prepare our hearts for the season of Christmas. In doing so, we are reaping the benefits of attentiveness when we are patient and wait upon God:
- We grow more attentive to the presence of God in our lives, and grow less attentive to the demands of those things in life that do not bring hope, love, peace, and joy.
- We grow more attentive to the needs of others around us, and less attentive to our own base desires.
- We grow more attentive to our care of self, and grow less attentive to our perfectionism or those things placing unreasonable demands upon us.
- We grow more attentive to the sacred space of a loving community, and grow less attentive to the anxieties of strained relationships.
- We grow more attentive to the holiness of worship, and grow less attentive to the work or obligation of worship.
- We grow more attentive to the season of coming joy, and grow less attentive to the season of busyness and spending.
As we cry “O Come Emmanuel!” we must also hold tight to our time of patient waiting – for it is in our waiting season that we will most vividly begin to understand the immense power and joy of Christ’s arrival in our world through the slow and steady work of patient attentiveness.