December 02, 2017

Advent: A Season of Waiting and Hope

An Introduction

It is hard to wait. 

It matters little whether the thing for which we wait is trivial or significant, whether for the latest Star Wars movie or for a child to be born. Waiting is hard.


 

Waiting is hard.


In his tragicomic play, Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett explores the nature of waiting through the lens of two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, who have been waiting for some time for a mysterious character named Godot. 

The two-act play observes Vladimir and Estragon as they wait for the ever-absent Godot. Over the course of both acts, their mental fortitude wanes as they are forced to deal with their own hunger, disease, exhaustion and confusion about why Godot has not shown up. 

At the end of the first act, they meet a messenger who tells them that Godot has changed his arrival day to "surely tomorrow," but when the second act opens up, months have passed, and still the characters are waiting. The messenger shows up again, and repeats the promise that Godot will arrive "surely tomorrow," but Vladimir and Estragon have all but given up. They contemplate ending their lives, but agree to wait one more day. The play ends without any resolution, and we never meet Godot.


Beckett's play is an abstractly realistic examination of the Christian hope. We, like Vladimir and Estragon have heard the promise: "Christ shall come again," and we commit ourselves to waiting for Christ to, in fact, come. And while seasons came and went in Beckett's play, for us, millennia have come and gone. Still we are waiting. 

Advent is the season of the church's annual cycle when we acknowledge that we are still waiting for Christ.


Advent is the season of the church's annual cycle when we acknowledge that we are still waiting for Christ.


We, the ones who live on the other side of the incarnation, cross, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, but who presently walk in the darkness of a world still marching to the beat of the Evil and Sin, we await our Lord for he promised "that where I am there you may also be" (Jn. 14:3).

Advent is when we turn our face to the east, and remember that "this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). But, unlike Vladimir and Estragon, we do not become obsessive in our waiting. Our lives are not to be spent as if in all-night vigils, scanning the horizons and the headlines for some sign that Christ's return is imminent.

Instead, we put into practice the life to which Jesus called us. We practice quiet, faithful, and persistent acts of charity, mercy, and compassion. We welcome the stranger, we comfort the suffering, we pray with the dying. We acknowledge the pain others bear and we show up in people's lives to be a source of help and healing. In short, we act in ways that are congruent with the way Jesus lived. That is all we have been called to do.

Not a single thing we do or accomplish as individuals or as a church will bring about the glorious arrival of God's kingdom. It's God's business when the world is to be brought to its proper end, not ours. Instead, we spend our days and months and years cultivating the garden of our lives. We work, we laugh, we feast, we love, we weep, we lament, we grow old, we die—for such is the course of human life. But we do all these things in the shadow of the promise: "Surely Tomorrow."


Not a single thing we do or accomplish as individuals or as a church will bring about the glorious arrival of God's kingdom.


Unlike Beckett's characters, we do not give into the allure of fear, confusion, or anxiety that would cause us to become obsessed with the arrival of our Lord. We have heard the message: "Surely tomorrow," but all we have before us is "today." How will we spend our "todays" during this season of waiting and yearning and hoping? 

As you walk these days where the light wanes and where shadows wax and lengthen, we hope that you will bookmark our blog and spend these days with our staff, who have composed daily reflections for your spiritual nurture. If you're in the area, we hope that you'll spend your Sunday mornings with us as we work through the weekly liturgies and spend time yearning together for justice and peace in our world. No matter who you are or where you're from, God's peace to you during these days and nights spend in anticipation for the Christ child. 

 

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