It is still Advent. It is still dark and cold. Last week we cried out, “Paris, Minneapolis, Colorado Springs.” The list grows. “Syria, California.” Our hearts hurt. We wait.
Unexpectedly, I am experiencing a deep depression that attacks from all sides. I have little strength to deal with my feelings of uselessness. I feel like an outsider, tolerated but not accepted, like but not loved… I crave personal attention and affection… My feelings are so general and attack everything that I see, hear or do, which tell me it is a general depression, not critical observations. I have little control over it. It feels like a form of possession. I try to pray for deliverance, but prayer brings no relief. It even appears dark and frightening. What else can I do but wait? –Henri Nouwen
Waiting is hard. David Foster Wallace, in his amazing commencement speech, “This is Water,” reminds us that while waiting in line at the grocery store after waiting in traffic after a monotonous day of work, we choose how we will spend that time. While we wait, do we judge others, spewing toxicity through our eyeballs, or do we take the time to foster compassion for our line mates? Do we choose to think of interesting things and hum a beautiful tune?
Think about lines at the DMV and airport and retail store. The situation is plum out of your control. How do you wait? How do you choose to spend that time? How we wait says a lot about who we are.
Advent is the season of waiting in the dark.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” –Isaiah 40
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed. But not yet, not yet.
Waiting does not mean being inactive. It does not mean escaping from this place into comfort and distraction. Waiting calls us to be more attentive to this time and place. To know more is to come, but to see the potential in this very moment and be fully present to it.
Advent is faith at its best. Advent is moving through the darkness with the hope of the light that is to come. This is not the last word. Death does not win. A baby is coming. Make way. Prepare. Today, we must choose how we will wait.