Be patient therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord…
Advent commences the Christian year, providing an important corrective to the fables by which we live. We are accustomed to starts that bolt from the gate. Gusto. Exertion. Master plans. To such hubris, Advent arrives, pats us on the head and says, Hold your horses there, antsy. You’re not ready for all that.
To begin with Advent means we start with waiting. We rest and pause. We hope and watch. We Sabbath. James tells us it’s like the long-suffering farmer who “waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it…”
With it – I believe this to be the crucial turn. To be patient does not mean to merely hold back or to camouflage how annoyed we are with delay. Rather, true patience means we are learning how to be with our life, to be present and curious and perhaps above all, tenaciously hopeful.
Walter Wangerin, a writer to whom I owe much, reflects the patience Advent invites. His dance (Walter’s word) with lung cancer has brought Walter ever more present to his life:
The nearness of death has relieved me of the need to strive toward goals and triumphs. No need to prove myself. I walk a level plain. Today is today. Tomorrow will come. And though I continue to plan activities well in advance, living doesn’t depend on their accomplishment, nor would any of them define me. I am already defined. Today is today. Tomorrow is enough…We are. It is enough.
It is a gift to have our grandiose visions brushed aside, to be patiently available to this moment. It is a gift to sink into the restful hope that God writes the story’s end.