As this magazine gets printed and distributed we will be starting the season of Advent – often known as the season of waiting. We all know what it is like to wait… but it is true that not all waiting is the same. Waiting for a train or a bus entails a passive waiting…. waiting for a diagnosis may incur anxiety and worry…. waiting for a holiday is often happy and exciting… waiting to see children or grandchildren may be infused by longing and expectation.
Advent waiting is also expectant. It’s not a ‘sit-back-and-wait’ kind of waiting. It is filled with an anticipation of something beautiful ahead … of wondering … of listening … of anticipated discovery … and sometimes of uncertainty.
Although we may know what Christmas Services we will attend… and what company we will keep at Christmas… we do not know how Jesus will come to us this Christmas. Prepare to be surprised. Prepare to see God, in perhaps a new way… in a surprising place… in surprising people. Wait in expectation to be surprised.
But we can only notice Christ’s revelation to us if we make space for it to happen. There was no room for Mary, Joseph and ultimately Jesus during that first night, because the inns were too full. The stable may have been simple – but it still had that vital space for the family to take shelter. I wonder whether we have that space this Advent? I wonder what we have to do – or stop doing – in order to make that space available? It’s worth reflecting upon.
Advent waiting is also hopeful – and oh, how we need hope at the moment! Our world can seem very dark for much of the time… not only with the shortening days but by the terrible actions of a minority and the reality of our suffering brothers and sisters. In John’s Gospel we are told: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” I wonder what that sentence means to you… in your life and your context? Mary and Joseph might not have fully understood the significance of their baby about to be born… but with hindsight, we do. We know the hope that Jesus brings… the hope and light which his life, death and resurrection revealed. We have read the stories and heard the testimonies of the faithful who have gone before us. We can draw upon our own experiences of Christ’s light shining in our past or present darknesses. All these add to our hope… the hope which the incarnation brings.
We hold onto all of this as we journey through Advent. And I hope and pray that it will be a fulfilling time for you… a time of expectation, space and hope. It is the time of looking for our Emmanuel, ‘God-with-us’, the promise of which will be fulfilled. And so we wait. We wait. But thankfully we do not wait alone… we wait with one another… we wait together as Advent people and people of faith.