Just Wait

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A sermon on Isaiah 25:1-9 – Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

On the 20th November 1991, my mum went to the GP. She was pregnant, it was five weeks until her due date of Christmas Eve and she was in for a routine check-up. The GP said to her that it was highly unlikely the baby would arrive anywhere near on time, in fact, the baby probably wouldn’t come until the New Year. So, my mum went home and steeled herself for a longer wait than expected for her baby to arrive. Then she promptly went into labour. My mum never trusted her GP again and I didn’t have to share my birthday with Jesus.

Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipation, and that waiting and anticipation is predominantly joyful, excited, expectant. Opening a new window on the Advent calendar each day takes us closer and closer to December 25th and, hopefully, a bigger and better present than a small piece of chocolate. The waiting is worth it. And the season of Advent and its call to spend time dwelling in the waiting helps us recapture that joy of Christ’s birth, we come to long for it with great anticipation, and then, ‘joy to the world’ and ‘joyful and triumphant’ and ‘o tidings of comfort and joy’ are not simply sung but sung and believed.

Except that waiting isn’t always joyful, excited, or positively expectant. Anyone who has had to wait for medical tests, anyone who has had to wait in an emergency to hear from loved ones, anyone who has waited for something which then never happened, can tell you that sometimes waiting is hard, it’s awful, it’s dark, and it can be so crushingly lonely.

Advent not only enables us to focus on the wait for Christ’s birth, but invites us to reflect and actively engage in the wait for Christ’s return. And that wait isn’t joyful in the same the wait for Christmas is. Sometimes we fervently pray for Christ’s return not because it will be glorious, the final unification of us with our Father in Heaven, but because everything around us has just gone wrong and we just want to play our cosmic get-out-of-jail-free card.

Until Jesus does return, we have to just wait. In the Isaiah Apocalypse the lectionary takes us through this week, we see the children of God worshiping as they wait. They remember and rejoice in all the Lord has done: ‘you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.’ ‘You have been a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.’ And as they recollect what the Lord has done, they joyfully anticipate what he will do: he will ‘make for all peoples a feast of rich food.’ ‘He will swallow up death forever.’ ‘Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.’ They remember that God has done good and he will do more good. And as for now, they wait. ‘We have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’

‘We have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ Remember that God has done good, rejoice that he will do more good. And as for now, just wait.

I have no right to preach this message. I have divine amnesia, so I readily forget that God has done good. And I’m a pessimist with an anxiety disorder, so I doubt that God will do more good. And I hate waiting. Waiting, for me, is the worst. Waiting is for my anxiety and fear, what a cake at a picnic is to ants and wasps: party time. I am currently in a waiting period which is not going to be over anytime soon. And the temptation to retreat into the companionship of fear and anxiety is so very strong, their trajectory and feel are known so well to me. And yet, I think I remember that God has done good to me. And then I tentatively believe that God will do more good for me. And then, as I wait, peace comes at my fear and anxiety, and I remember more and rejoice more and then just wait.

So, as Advent offers us an invitation again to wait, let’s accept it – accept it all, from the joy and excitement, to the bewildering and disheartening, confident that God is always with us in the waiting.

‘We have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ Remember that God has done good, rejoice that he will do more good. And as for now, just wait.


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