Time for Active Waiting

Waiting for Birth

On this First Sunday in Advent, the four weeks of preparation for the celebration of the coming of Christ, I found myself remembering the days of waiting for the births of our children and grandchildren.

I pictured the two-room seminary apartment where we waited for our first-born child, wondering what labor and delivery would actually be like. I could see the church parsonage in DeLand where we prepared for the arrival of our second daughter. I saw myself in the Tampa parsonage where we anticipated the call to come to Orlando for the births of our first three grandchildren or to get on the way to South Carolina for the arrivals of our fourth and fifth grandchildren.

None of it “just happened.” In each unique case, we prepared by doing everything expectant parents and grandparents are expected to do. We can’t rush the process along, except in cases of medical emergencies. But the waiting doesn’t mean we just sit around staring at the calendar. It’s active waiting in which we prepare our lives and our homes for the way life will be after the child arrives.

Waiting for Rebirth

In the long, liturgical tradition of the church, faithful people have prepared for the coming of Christ — both remembering his coming in Bethlehem and anticipating his coming at the end of time — the way every expectant parent or grandparent anticipates, hopes, and prepares for a child to be born. Advent is a season of active waiting for spiritiual rebirth by living today in ways that are consistent with the way of Christ and in anticipation of that day when God’s kingdom fully comes and God’s will is perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven.

We don’t live in a monastary, but I often remember the way Thomas Merton described his first Advent in the Abby of Gethsemani.

“You begin a new life, you enter into a new world at the beginning of a new liturgical year. And everything the Church gives you to sing, every prayer that you say…is a cry of ardent desire for grace, for help for the coming of the Messiah, the Redeemer…

“The cold stones of the abbey church ring with a chant that glows with living flame, with clear, profound desire…it draws you within, where you find God.”

Advent is not a quick rush to Christmas, but a season of active waiting as we anticpate the new ways Christ will be born again in us. Merton said that each soul is “a Bethlehem where Christ comes to be born.”

Christmas will come, but these are the days of activing waiting as we open our lives again to the new birth of Christ within us. The writer in today’s meditation in The Upper Room Disciplines encourages us to “not hasten through these days but rather savor our time by recalling and renewing our commitment to follow the way of Christ, whose birth we await.”

And so, we sing, “Come. Thou Long-Expected Jesus.”

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Grace and peace,


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1 thought on “Time for Active Waiting

  1. Jim Thanks for writing this. It was a good reminder for me of the place of our memories live in my day to day. It does seem like only yesterday our children arrived but I know it was a long time ago. I am so thankful for all that has happened over the years. I hope you and Martha have a great Advent and I look forward to seeing you soon. Have a blessed Christmas and thanks for your place in my life. SHALOM, Tom Mc


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