Third Week of Advent: Patience

{This week, John Blase and I reflect on the Epistle reading for the third week of Advent, James 5:7-10}

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.

7 Replies to “Third Week of Advent: Patience”

  1. Oh, Winn. What words you write here. I am embracing them as I read, but also as I live. Your post speaks directly into my December unplugged from Facebook and my blog. I have found that I am more mentally present in my life and with those in it because I’m not overly concerned with what someone might be saying about what I wrote or how I’m feeling, because so many are unable to allow a person they do know let alone a person they don’t know to simply be where they are. Also being present, I am learning in recent days, is the allowance of those deep emotions to rise to the surface, and like the person in recovery from drink or drug, there is nothing to distract or numb it away. And so I look at and feel and hold on and deal with them. For I am never alone, my King is with me. Always.

    1. Thanks Rebekah Grace!
      Terrific description in the end about the rawness of launching into rebirth while the warm, yet dying womb must be shed. Only in the embrace of our Savior may we do so. Will I stay, will I abide, will I accept this ever-present Refuge? This is what it means, I believe, to always be a beginner, as Thomas Merton so aptly stated. The mercies of the Lord are new every morning, each moment, for it is in real time that we embrace Him.
      All blessings and honor and glory be unto Him, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Almighty God, Immanuel, God with us. Let us rejoice and be glad as we wait patiently for His return!!!
      Bless you Rebekah,
      Ann

    1. I don’t know that I ever saw a blog from him, but he still does, on very rare intervals, make a letter available for download on his site. The last one was last December.

  2. And so I read your Advent posts backward because I just found them. I love Walter Wangerin. He’s one of a very few authors who takes up width on my bookshelves (Buechner being one of the others — have you ever read his “The Faces of Jesus”?). So again I smile, to read that you are quoting him. And I sigh with contentment to hear the familiar voice:

    “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.”

    1. Hi, Diane. I haven’t read The Faces of Jesus, but I’d like to. I did read a Wangerin story for my sermon today. I love both of those men.

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