It occurs to me that the Bible is full of stories of waiting, and full of stories of events that took a long time. God took a whole week to create the world instead of just spouting forth a completed universe. Sarah waited nearly a lifetime before conceiving Issac. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before being able to enter the promised land. It seems to me that when the Psalmist cried "How long, O Lord," he knew that his fortunes were not about to flip in an instant. The prophets proclaimed a coming Messiah, but were no longer alive by the time that Jesus was born. And even Jesus came to earth as a baby, and then walked the earth for thirty years before beginning the bulk of his ministry.
One of the challenges of being people of faith in our time is the fundamental conflict between the waiting-and-watching nature of faith and our instant gratification society.
Advent reminds us that we live life on God's time, where the promise is just as important as its fulfillment. That space between promise and fulfillment is what we call hope. Advent gives us the opportunity to test the waters on living as people of hope - to practice, for a season, the habit of watchful anticipation that we are asked then to continue throughout our lives. God's promise of salvation has been given to us, and we experience moments of wholeness and fulfillment throughout our lives; but sometimes we have to wait seven days, or forty years, or most of a lifetime, or even whole lifetimes for some of these moments. What we can be sure of, however, is that the Christ who comes to us in the manger is the Christ who has already come for us as the promise of a future with hope, life eternal with God, and joy eternal in the Spirit. And we live in hope, because we know that all of these things are most certainly worth the wait.
Lord Jesus, 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!” (Advent Prayer, Henri Nouwen)