Happy Advent everyone. Rob here.
The season of Advent is a season of waiting. We’re all waiting for something it seems: a vaccine, racial justice, political change, a job, love, a miracle, you name it. What are you waiting for? What the first Christmas tells us is that God often responds to the question of our waiting with the most unexpected responses.
1st century Israel was a small province of the mighty Roman Empire. Herod the Great acted as if he was the true King of Israel but, in fact, was a Roman vassal with only a veneer of legitimacy. Jerusalem was a hotbed of political intrigue as various factions and personalities vied for influence with the increasingly unpredictable and paranoid king. It could be expected that the Messiah in this setting would be a militarily powerful, charismatic and glorious figure with obvious mark of divine blessing around him. God decided on a young virgin, an obscure province, a very humble birth and a baby. God’s answer to a nation entranced by power and influence was to come humbly into his world and offer an invitation to a kingdom that operates outside the usual power structures.
Like many I have been slightly obsessed with the American Presidential Election and the subsequent shenanigans by a power hungry ruler who hates to lose. The media and our own need for drama ensures that we’re drawn into the intrigue and in-fighting. Meanwhile God is inviting us to turn our eyes and heart away from the noise and look for his mustard seeds of new life that are hidden from the cameras and media gaze.
The answers to our waiting aren’t found by looking at the headlines. They’re found by being attentive to God even as we go about our lives. Mary wasn’t doing anything extraordinary when the angel came to her. The shepherds were doing their job when the angels came to them. Zechariah was going about his priestly business when his angel appeared. The key wasn’t what they were doing. It was in their ‘yes’ when they were told what to do. If we live our lives with an attitude of saying yes to God then the waiting isn’t filled with angst: it’s filled with expectancy and hopeful anticipation. When we keep giving God our ‘yes’ we stop worrying about God answering our prayers. We know they’re being answered even as we live and breathe and have our being.
I’m reminding myself of this as I wait to hear back from a job interview, as I wait for more inspiration to strike for my latest book, as I wait for a new year to begin and new plans to emerge. We’re all waiting for something but we are not to stop living while we wait. We are to give our lives to God , living in hopeful expectancy that he’ll show up in unexpected ways and to say yes when he does.
Waiting creates longing and longing can paralyse us if we’re not careful. Let’s be vigilant this Advent. Let’s “wake up and slow down” as an old vicar once said a few advents ago. Another way to put it is, “let’s come alive to God and pay attention to him.” And let’s do it with ‘YES’ already on our lips.
Grace and peace.