We Await What Has Already Begun
"People who wait have received a promise that allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that has started to grow. … We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun in us. So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more." – Rev. Henri Nouwen
This Sunday we enter once again into the season of Advent, awaiting the coming (advent) of the Lord. And we wait. We wait with expectation, knowing that the Lord has already begun in us. But we wait.
Life had already begun four years ago in our daughter Kathie who knew, thanks to ultrasound technology, that she was carrying a boy within her. We were all waiting for November 26th, the due date. But two weeks early, Kathie called from San Francisco to tell us the doctor had decided to induce labor ten days early due to the threat of “pre-eclampsia.” And so we began to wait at a different level. We waited with joy. We waited with expectation. As labor moved beyond 40 hours, we also waited with nervousness – actually with fear.
Fear is generally involved in waiting. The gospel today addresses the fear of the end times: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” But, as Fr. Nouwen explains, when we as Christians wait for the end time, fear is allayed also by knowing that what we await has already begun in us.
Finally, after some 45 hours, we got the call from San Francisco – Samuel Zev Green had arrived! Waiting. Fear now displaced by the realization that what we were waiting for had truly begun and that waiting was, in fact, about moving from something to something more.”
The waiting changes our eyes. Before the waiting, Israel saw Babylon as their problem. But during the waiting, they saw that they were the problem and Babylon was the setting. The waiting changes our hearts and confirms that we can do nothing but get ready. The initiative is in God's hands.
We need Advent to make ourselves ready for his coming. We need a season of soberness in a world of Christmas parties. We need Advent, the season of waiting, in a world that says go for it and hurry up. We need the gentle brightness of this first Advent Sunday to counterbalance the frenetic darkness of this past Black Friday. This waiting time called Advent not only prepares us for the birth of God in the flesh, it prepares each of us in our lives to receive him. For now we know that he has already begun in us.
An Advent Prayer from Henri Nouwen:
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit
upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people,
walking in darkness,
yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”