Three days until Christmas.
Wait 364 days until the next one? Wait 12 days until Epiphany? Wait a few months until Lent and Easter? Then wait for the countdown to Pentecost? Then, maybe, finally, enjoy a good chunk of rest in the “Ordinary Time” of the liturgical calendar while we wait for another season of waiting?
In general, I find a great deal of peace and predictability in the turning of the liturgical seasons. In other ways, it’s tremendously troublesome.
Always looking for what’s next.
“OK, that one’s done, and I guess it didn’t ‘work’ either. What do we wait for next?”
Some just opt out of the seasonal waiting altogether: “No peace until Jesus comes back”
This is pure abdication of our Kingdom-building responsibility and an utter misreading of ANYTHING Jesus taught.
And the sad thing is these folks enter an even darker period of waiting; the “just hold on long enough until we get out of this place” waiting. The “let’s gather up enough converts to hold on and wait with us” waiting. The truly dedicated adherents to this mindset actually cook up ways to “speed up” Christ’s return.
It’s a tense, fear-drenched, and mostly helpless (and largely selfish) waiting.
The thought did and does depress and exhaust me.
There must be something in between the cyclical rise and fall of liturgical waiting/receiving and the “end of times” waiting.
What is it? When is it?
I think it lies in the concept of something I’ve heard called “active waiting”:
It is not THIS THEN THAT and then wait for THAT again.
It is THIS AND the THAT which we wait for, while reminding ourselves others have waited for the same for millennia.
What am I doing with the THIS while I wait for the THAT?
For what am I “preparing preliminarily”?
For myself, I prepare for peace – within myself, within my family, my community, my country, and so on. Not idly, like watching the calendar flip day-by-day to December 25, thinking somehow peace magically “arrives” at Christmas. If I think and act that way, I will certainly be sorely disappointed.
Rather, I recognize that the Prince of Peace HAS come, IS among us, and WE are now equipped with what it takes to make peace a reality in our world. Each advent I “actively wait” and “preliminarily prepare” for that reality. An annual observance of advent reminds me IT IS POSSIBLE because IT IS ALREADY REALITY.
Does this usher us into another waiting room?
But it’s a very different kind of waiting. It’s no longer the hopeless waiting that SOMEONE ELSE from SOMEPLACE ELSE will come and save us, love us, bring us peace.
They already have.
The waiting now is to see if enough of us will realize it to activate the gifts that were given 2000’ish Christmases ago.