This week wraps up Advent, the liturgical season of waiting and preparation. Theology tells us we are waiting, as our ancient brothers and sisters did, for Emmanuel – the Hebrew word for “God is with us.” We, as they did, wait for God to come again as a powerful leader who will let us live our lives in peace, harmony, utopian perfection and all those things beauty queens talk about in their final interviews. No doubt, we will be just as disappointed as they were when they finally came face to face with Jesus, the long awaited for king who was to take away all of their troubles and disappointments; who was to slay the enemy; and who was to make life in the land of milk and honey a reality. You see, we, too, have created our idea of the perfect savior and he…or she…most likely looks nothing like the model of compassion seen in the person of Jesus.
The question is, what exactly is it that we are waiting for? Is it that we long for time with God? You know, like the conversation starter, “If you could have dinner with anyone living or not living, who would it be?” I mean, who doesn’t have a list of questions for God all the way from the trivial to an explanation for the deeply painful events of life…things like why young mothers have to die or why hate is so prevalent in our world.
Or, are we stoically waiting for a time when we can live exactly as we think life should be. Maybe we long to be out of poverty; or we yearn for healing in a fractured relationship, for a child, health for an aging parent, or peace around the holiday table. Maybe we want the security of reassurance, as we fear for a loved one who is depressed; addicted to drugs and/or alcohol; or who is deployed to places we neither know nor understand. We might even be filled with anger at entire groups of people who don’t think, believe or live the way we do and we wait for our version of justice and wrath to change them so they see the world as we do without ever really understanding who they are.
We become absorbed with our ideas of what changes we would like to see in our world without considering that the next guy has similar thoughts. Often, we don’t even know the other guy…or gal. We just suppose they must be like everyone else who looks and acts and dresses the way they do. We vilify ethnicities, socioeconomic groups, genders, professions, bosses, politicians, neighbors, family members and anyone we can lump into a group of people that we perceive as different than us and the group we identify with.
And, we wait for God to let them know they are wrong and we are right. I mean, the world would definitely be a better place if only…right? And…we wait for Emmanuel to take care of our lives, our stresses, our frustrations and our anger.
There are those of us of a ‘certain age’ who remember the screech of a needle scratching across a record when someone quickly and recklessly wants the music to cease. It’s that sound of “stop” that should be playing in your head as you ponder these musings defining what we might be waiting for. Our wait should not be passive as if we are waiting for something outside of our control. Nor should our wait be narcissistically focused on self-interests and desires no matter how noble they may seem to be to our selves or those around us.
Rather, the question, “what are we waiting for” should be a call to action. What are we waiting for? Why don’t we cross cultural and ethnic barriers to learn about our neighbors? Why don’t we listen in conversation, a skill that can only guide us toward understanding, compromise and breaking down barriers? Why is our main action to point at another to magnify the splinter in their eye when we are suffering from a log in our own? (Matt. 7:3) What exactly is it that we are waiting for? Since the beginning of time we have been guided by God toward a better way, God’s way. Some call the place where God is in control heaven and they wait for the kingdom of heaven to simply happen. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is among you.” (Luke 17:21) Was he talking about his presence with humanity? About God’s presence with us always and everywhere? Or was it a call to us to consider how we might be instrumental in bringing this crazy thing called heaven into a broken, hurting world?
Maybe it’s all of the above. Why are we waiting for God, in the form of Jesus, to come into the world again at some nebulous point when all we have to do is look around us to see God’s constant joyful, playful, and beautiful presence, laughing, weeping and beaconing us to walk with him…or her…as we navigate this complex thing called life? And, once we see God’s presence…once we believe that God came to us in the form of Jesus, and again in the form of the Holy Spirit…once we truly believe that God constantly and consistently calls us as his very own sons and daughters to live as only she could create us to live, then – and only then will we understand the answer to the question, “what are we waiting for?” We must not wait! It is time to come together, not to belittle, berate or judge some other person; nor to act out of arrogance, entitlement or exclusivity. It is time to love God more than anything imaginable and, out of that immense love, it is time to compassionately engage in all of God’s creation so much that we have no possible choice other than to nurture all that God so masterfully and beautifully put together on this humble little planet.
We have been created and empowered by God and taught through the example Jesus set before us how to be light in the world. As the Christmas story unfolds, we see kings and shepherds; men and women; rich and poor; powerful and oppressed all come together, united and awed by the presence of God. If they could do it, what are we waiting for?