Advent is presented as a time of waiting that sometimes gives rise to a problem in our culture where waiting can sometimes be seen as something negative. There is a widely held belief, promoted very effectively by a whole range of marketing executives, that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. So why on earth wait!
The season of Advent offers a different perspective and that makes it important for our time. It suggests somethings are worth waiting for and that the very act of waiting helps to nourish in us a sense of expectancy and of hope. The waiting that Advent promotes is based on a trust that we will not be disappointed because what we are waiting on, hoping for and expecting is nothing less than God.
The prayers and readings of Advent invite us to take the time to reflect on what it is we are waiting for God to do. The people who assist us in this process are characters such as Isaiah an old prophet, John the Baptist, a young prophet and Mary a pregnant teenager. Each in turn is creative and imaginative, challenging and trusting and they are all people of prayer. Isaiah dared to dream that deserts might be turned into fertile plains, that the blind might see and the deaf might hear. John the Baptist dared to challenge his contemporaries that they need to think and behave differently if they wanted a better world and Mary of Nazareth dared to believe that God would act through her simple “yes” to bring a light to the people who sat in darkness.
The reason we look to these heroes of hope and expectation is not that we are interested in events of two millennia ago but that we learn from them what to hope for and expect from God now, at this time in our world. We learn from them that when we make gods in our own image and likeness, we will be disappointed. They teach us that the key is to let God be God and then transformation occurs. This however requires a prayerful waiting and that does not come easily to us in our instant age. The advertisers would have us jump straight to Christmas – no Advent for them but if we want Christmas to mean something then we need to spend a little time with Isaiah, John and Mary.
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