Monthly Talking Point – December 2019

Provided this month by Mike Smith, Rector of Caversham Thameside.

American comedian Bob Hope once commented that he learned to dance waiting in the queue for the family bathroom, behind his six brothers!

I wonder how good at waiting you are? Anyone with children will know that the run-up to Christmas is one that children can find very hard. In our house, the almost daily questions of “how long is it to Christmas?”, reveals an understandable impatience with waiting. It gets even worse on Christmas Eve as children know that there are presents to open, but they have to wait until the following day!

Perhaps some of us have never outgrown that childhood impatience. All around us is a world that tells us we need not wait, but can have what we want or need right now. Our credit-driven society invites us to abandon any thought of waiting and buy it now – why wait? We live in a ‘now’ world where we can communicate in an instant to friends and family in other parts of the country or world.

So it seems ludicrous for the Church to have a season called Advent that is all about waiting. Surely the church needs to go with the times and concentrate on Christmas and abandon this outdated period where we are invited to wait? But Advent presents us with a brief time to revisit, and perhaps to re-learn, the skill of waiting. To become active-waiters: people who live in the moment, savouring the present, and find meaning in the noticing of our lives. Waiting can mean we appreciate the future when it comes.

But for the Christian, Advent is also about learning to wait for the past that we might discover to wait for the future – to wait for something that has already happened so that we can learn to wait for something that has not yet happened. Each year in Advent we wait for the good news that God comes to this world in human form – a familiar story, but one that I need to remind myself of each year. God chooses to be like me, and understands all my humanity, so that God can save me from myself. But we Christians also need to wait for God to come again – to complete what he started in Jesus Christ. We won’t know when this time will be, but the Christian needs to be an active watcher for the signs of God.

So waiting is an important skill. From Advent Sunday on 1st December for four weeks we are invited to actively wait – to active commitment to our lives as they are now, and to look for the work of God in sending Jesus, and in returning to save the world.

Happy waiting!