Virtually everyone who is a parent has had the experience of taking a car trip with their family and hearing, seeminginly endlessly, from the backseat of the car, “Are we almost there yet?” The first asking of the question can occcur as little as ten or fifteen minutes after leaving the house and can be asked with astonishing (and, admit it, irritating) frequency, yielding such responses as “we’ll be there in five minutes less time than the last time you asked.”
In today’s first Mass reading from the Book of Isaiah, God says, “But a very little while, and…the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, th eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will every find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” “A very little while”, God promised. Hmm. The Book of Isaiah was written about 700 years before the birth of Christ. One can only imagine how many times over the months…the years…the decades, the people asked, “Is it almost here yet? Are the blind going to see soon?” A “very little while” turned out to be a lot of years.
Likewise, Jesus promised his followers that he would come again. And although he didn’t tell them it would be in a very little while, some of the things he said to them led them to think that the Second Coming would occur during their lifetimes. So you can imagine them too asking each other, “Is He coming soon? Will he be here in a little while?”
However one measures it – even granting that our idea of time and God’s are not quite the same, more than a little while has past and we are still waiting. In the words of one of the Mass Prefaces for Advent, “we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.” And, although I understand that some are predicting the Jesus will arrive on Mary 21, 2011, the truth is the we do not know the day or hour of His coming.
And so we watch and we wait – not only during this Advent season, but every day. Our waiting, though, is an active waiting, not a passive one. We don’t just sit in the back seat of the car asking, “Is we there yet?” Instead, we work, each in our own way, to birth Christ into the world, to leaven the world with God’s presence. And if we take that charge seriously, we won’t really have time to worry about when Christ is coming. We’ll be ready whenever He comes.