Let’s face it: We don’t like waiting. We want what we want immediately – whether that be acquiring something, solving some problem, hearing back from someone, and so on. Yet, here we are in Advent, a time of waiting.
Even if what we are waiting for is only a week away, we are impatient. We forget what Bonhoeffer calls the “austere blessing of waiting.” He writes
Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. . . . Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting, will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment. Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them. For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in the storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, of becoming
I’ve been facilitating a couple of small groups in our parish’s Advent Retreat in Daily Living. This past week they prayed with several characteristics of waiting, as articulated by Marina McCoy: Advent waiting as expectant, as requiring making space, and as hopeful.
The characteristic that struck most of the retreatants was Advent as requiring making space, so I share here McCoy’s comment on that aspect, which asks some good questions. It is not too late in Advent to ask ourselves the same questions:
Although the main action in Advent is God’s, I have my part to do too. I am not waiting passively for God to act. Rather, I have to make room for God’s action to be something that I can welcome, something that I can pay attention to when it happens. Here the images of the inn and stable are helpful. There was no room at the inn for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, because it was too full. The stable was poor and simple but had space for them to take shelter. Is my heart open to God? What are the superficial concerns or worries to let go, in order to make room for Jesus to come again this Christmas? Is my life too rushed and busy with holiday preparations, or am I building in time to make space for the Christ Child?