1 ADVENT: A TIME OF WAITING Have you ever noticed how some taxi drivers bore their way in front of a long line of cars waiting for the light to change? And how about the fourway stop signs at certain intersections? Every body is in a hurry, not to mention the blowing of horns, immediately the light turns green! No body wants to wait. And that goes for human relationships as well. Children no longer enjoy their childhood! They can t wait to grow up; they assume adult behaviour in terms of their sexuality, become force ripe, as the saying goes, and ultimately suffer the consequences in terms of a blighted life with their dreams unfulfilled or dashed to pieces on the rock of now! Nobody wants to wait! We all live in the now generation: self-gratification now! Get rich now! Get intimate now! Get to our destination now even if we have to die getting there! And the list goes on, and on, and on. No wonder we rush into the Christmas Season prematurely! We can t wait! Hence the lack of understanding of the Season of Advent! Advent is a liturgical time of waiting. Advent is like the waiting room to Christmas. However, everyone wants to short-circuit that period of waiting in order to get to the Christmas Carols and the tinsels and the decorations all of which signal the Birth of Jesus. Not for us much emphasis on the singing of Advent Hymns O Come, O come, Emmanuel or On Jordan s Bank the Baptist Cry Announces that the Lord is Nigh! And yet, waiting is part of the rhythm of human existence. There is waiting, be it for a well-earned vacation or to go to college or to some exciting events
2 in the future. However, in a way, we start living the event that occupies our intellect, our desires, and the accompanying waiting. The people of the Old Testament were in the habit of waiting on the Promised Messiah, the One promised them from of old. Isaiah the Prophet captures this waiting in his writings: Be comforted my people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end A voice cries, In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken [Is. 40: 1, 3, 4]. There is great expectation here; someone special is to come to deliver them from their bondage of slavery, and the preparations are being made so that the path of the Promised One will be smooth and direct when at last he comes. We can well imagine how the anticipation was working upon the minds of a people who felt depressed and down-trodden. Hope was rekindled, and spirits were lifted even though the realization of the Coming of their Liberator was 700 years away! Just imagine: 700 years away! There is certainly something about expectant faith! It enkindles hope in people s lives.
3 So, too, in the lives of Christians: we are called to engender an expectant faith! When we Christians observe and celebrate the Season of Advent, we recognize the fact that Jesus, our Saviour, our Liberator has already come and it is this coming we remember and which will be the cause of much merry-making when the day dawns. Like the people of the Old Testament we prepare the way of the Lord. The valleys to be filled up, and the paths that are to be straightened refer to our attitudes and way of life that might be out of synche with Gospel values and virtues. Just as we prepare physically with the setting-up of sorrel and Christmas pudding, the painting of the home and the hanging of new curtains, so, too, at the spiritual level we prepare to receive the Prince of Peace when at last he makes his appearance. Notwithstanding all that preparation that typifies the Season of Advent, we are forced to face reality during this period of our existence. We have never seen modern Jamaica in such a mess, what with the crime wave, the brutish rapes, and the wanton killings. Our situation is not unlike that of the Old Testament people who were dragged away into exile away from their land and Temple. Yes, we are faced with a very terrible situation. We are in exile from our customary way of life where children could be themselves: carefree boys and girls playing, without any fear of being abducted or abused or killed. That customary way of life carried with it a sense of family, whereby each one was his or her brothers and sisters keeper. Selfishness, materialism and greed have swept away that customary,
4 carefree way of existence. What, then, should be our Christian attitude in the face of such seemingly insurmountable condition? Fear or hope? Like Israel who was still expecting their Deliverer to come, we, too, must have that expectant faith that underscores hope. Here is Isaiah again speaking to a distressed people who were living in a protracted period of Advent: You are my servant, I have chosen you and will not cast you away. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will give you strength, I will bring you help, I will uphold you with the right hand of my justice. All who rage against you will be put to shame and disgrace; all who fight against you will perish and come to nothing those who took up arms against you will be destroyed, brought to nothing. For I, the Lord, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you: Fear not, I am your assistance. [Isaiah 41: 9b 13]. For Christians who observe Advent even in this, so somber an atmosphere, a third understanding of Christ s Coming is implied in this passage from Isaiah. Christ, with his grace, comes even now not only in the past nor at the end time. He comes at every moment of our lives, so we have access to Him and His grace if we allow him to enter our inmost being. With expectant faith, we can hear the words of Isaiah reverberate in our hearts if we listen keenly with our hearts: I, the Lord, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you: Fear not, I am your assistance.
5 May this holy Season of Advent find you watching and waiting for those moments of great intimacy with the Lord, and with expectant faith. Sing with conviction: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom Captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of Man appears. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel! And so, as we enter upon this joyful season of Advent, we wait expectantly! +Donald J. Reece 17 November 2008