December 2, 2007
Advent is about waiting, waiting for the good things which are to come. But not all waiting is the same. In fact, we can distinguish two specific kinds of waiting. The first kind is waiting for things we are certain will take place. The second kind is waiting without knowing what will happen. The first kind of waiting requires patience. The second kind of waiting requires trust.
A great deal of waiting in our life is of the first kind. It is the waiting we do as we wait in the checkout line. No matter how slow the people are in front of us, no matter how many thumbs the cashier has, we know that if we are patient, if we hold on, we will eventually get to the head of the line, make our purchase, and be able to go home. This first kind of waiting also applies as we anticipate an important celebration that is soon to occur. It is the waiting that children experience as they anticipate Christmas, or the waiting as we look forward to a get-away trip or an upcoming anniversary. We know that if we are patient, if we hold on, time will pass, the day will come, and we will have the celebration. So this first kind of waiting has as its object a goal that is close to us and is clear.
The second kind of waiting has a goal that is less clear and less certain. It is the waiting of Advent. This kind of waiting occurs when someone we love is diagnosed with a serious sickness. We wait to see what the treatment will be, if the treatment will succeed, if the health problem will be resolved. We wait for a healthy and positive resolution, but how and if that resolution will occur is not always apparent. This second kind of waiting is looking for someone to love, waiting for another with whom to share life and marriage. How and if that person is to be found is less than clear. This second kind of waiting takes place as we look forward in the years ahead and retirement. We look for days in which we no longer have to bear the burden of a regular routine, when we will have our health, when we continue in some new way to be productive. But how and if that retirement will come is uncertain. Some of the most important issues of life are what we wait for in this second kind of waiting. It is certainly more significant than waiting in the checkout line. This second kind of waiting requires more trust than patience. This is the waiting of Advent. It is an act of faith, a belief that our lives are not random or arbitrary, that there is a God who is guiding our life out of love and toward salvation.
Advent waiting is not simply a strategy. It is a way of life. If we enter into this kind of waiting, it changes us. It changes the way that we look at our present and at our future. It leads us to believe that, however our life unfolds, God is a part of that unfolding. However we move towards the good things we are waiting for, God is involved in bringing those good things about. What we are waiting for is God’s own Advent, God’s own coming into our lives. That’s why Paul today says in the second reading that we are closer to our salvation than when we first believed. God is on the move. God is coming. That is why Matthew says today in the gospel that we need to be awake. We need to be ready, because we do not know how and when our God will arrive.
So the waiting of Advent is a waiting of trust, of trust in a God who is with us, in a God who will emerge in our lives. We wait expecting God’s arrival. We do not know when God will come. We are not sure that God will bring the good things we desire as we envision them, and perhaps not even as we prefer. But we believe, as we wait in trust, that we who place our trust in God will not be disappointed.
So then let us entrust ourselves to God in this Advent season. Let us take whatever need we have, whatever good desire we have, whatever hope we have, and entrust it to God’s care. Let us believe that God will take our request and act upon it. Let us try to live this upcoming week in the firm conviction that, however God acts, however our life unfolds, the outcome that God will bring about is well worth waiting for.