Advent Day 3: Waiting
The documented events pre and post-birth of Jesus the Christ are about expectancy. This is on display in Luke and Matthew’s historical record of Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, John, Herod, no vacant inns, Roman administrative customs, Shepherds, Wise-men, Angels, and a postnatal flight to Egypt (Mt.2:13).
A concept of waiting has a big part to play in the Advent tradition. However, this focus on “waiting” can hide from us the tremendous amount of movement found within both texts.Particularly the activity of the Holy Spirit. This is primarily because of a thematic over emphasis on ”waiting” found in some (not all) advent reflections.
It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The traditional ideas of Advent which consider it a time of waiting seem out of sync, almost abstract. For example: there is more movement here because of the warmer days.
Having said this, the summer also enhances our chances of appreciating the themes of waiting and anticipation. This is because of the anticipation of cooler temperatures which arise when clouds announce potential storms.
New Testament scholar, Joel Green, considers Luke’s record of the geographical and geo-political to be unique markers of significance; features, among others, that ‘contribute to the dramatic movement of the Advent story and to the sense of perpetual motion within the story‘ (1997:50)[i].
Perpetual motion is considered impossible in practice. So it is a term, that properly understood and applied in a theological context, helps to identify the paradox, the potential and the actual participation of God and those He called. There, heartfelt tensions must have shifted between an overwhelming mix of bewilderment with doubt, and the knowledge that these strange events was God fulfilling His promise. People whose feet appear to us covered in dust, as they embarked on a wild and nervous journey, became not only participants of the impossible, but also witnesses of that which has become possible.
As we enter a season that places more demands on our time and creativity, Advent should call to us to a remembrance of God’s freedom and invitation to relationship. In Jesus the Christ, son of Mary, step-son of Joseph we encounter Him as fully human, fully God. On the cross and outside the empty tomb, we encounter Him as Saviour.
Yet, before a manger, straw and the scent of farm animals we encounter Him as a baby, in a strange event that implies God became vulnerable and dependent for our sake. Displaying the length to which the Creator chose to go in order to rescue His Creation. As Karl Barth stated: ‘Jesus is not an idea. He is a person. It is the truth of the real the reality of the true which here enters the field: ‘God speaks. God acts. God is in the midst’ (CD. Outline 1949:58)
Hildegard of Bingen [ii] said, that by the Spirit we are:
‘awakened, called by the resounding melody; God’s invocation of the word’.
Like a fire pouring forth from God’s heart, bursting through our despair and obliterating it (1 Jn.5). Almost every reminder of this birth narrative brings with it a light that pierces the darkened areas of our lives (Jn.5:35).
For: ‘in His light we see light and in this light our darkness’ (Ps.36:9) [iii].
Over the next 8 weeks most Australians will slow down.
Schools will begin a 5 week summer break. Shops will trade until Christmas eve, opening Boxing Day, coming to life with fanfare, discounts and line-ups. Human activity is likely to distract from the meaning and purpose before us.
However, it doesn’t have to. Advent is a journey about embracing ‘the dramatic movement of the Advent story by, marking the event where the impossible became possible’ (1997:50). Any understanding of waiting as a kind of static stillness cannot be drawn from the texts. There is waiting, but there is also movement. Like Mary and Joseph who did their best to ”trust God without borders” (United, Oceans), we ‘look and march towards God’s appearing and revelation, the world’s redemption and God’s fulfilment of His promise in Advent’ [iv].
‘We are the object of divine compassion’ [v]
[i] Green, J.B 1997 NICNT: The Gospel of Luke Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing US/UK
[ii] Hildegard of Bingen Selected writings, Penguin Books (London 2001) Kindle for PC Ed.
[iii] Barth, K 1949 CD Outline, pp.62 & 75
[iv] Barth, K. Church Dogmatics IV:3, Henderickson Publishers p.322 & CD Outline, 1949:62 & 75
[v] Barth, K 1949 CD Outline, pp.62 & 75
(I was introduced to the song ‘Oceans’ by the Blog, Found. The lyrics seemed fitting.)