What are we waiting for…?

To be a people of faith is to be impatiently patient.

We are always waiting, aren’t we…

waiting for God…waiting for understanding…waiting for peace…for justice…waiting.

We can always see a need for improvement in our current situation – that’s the impatient part.

Our numbers are small – our bank account low –

our profile in the community is not what it once was.

We can always find something to ask for – to strive for – to pray for.

But because we are people of faith,

we know that we’ve already been granted all we need in Jesus Christ.

We have grace, mercy and peace –

we have communion with God through Christ –

we have hope in “this world and the next” as the old hymn says.

There is no need to panic once we have decided to take to heart

the promises of God revealed in Scripture.

So why do we panic?

We panic because our impatience – driven by the world we live in –

will not let us believe what is before us.

The world we live in says that success needs to be measurable

so we despair when our numbers fall.

The world we live in tells us we don’t need to wait for anything

we should be able to have what we want right now;

whether what we want is pleasure, recreation, employment, assurance, information

all of this and more should be ours – so says the world.

We panic because the ways of God are slow and mysterious and filled with the unknown.

We panic because, in spite of what we read in the meaty, messy bits of scripture,

God has no intention of ‘tearing open the heavens’ and setting things right

according to our understanding.

Panic interferes with our willingness to wait – to be amazed by the slow and subtle ways of God – and that is why Advent is such a problem for us.

Christmas is here, you see;

the decorations say so – the music says so – the frenzied advertising says so

everyone says so…

except the minister – except the church.

The ‘establishment’ wants us to wait –

no Christmas carols (not right away) – no talk of angels and shepherds (not right away)

instead we hear ancient promises in Scripture warning us of gloom and disaster (as in the gospel)

and assuring us that God has not forgotten God’s people,

but the time seems not yet to have come for our redemption.

for God’s people still suffer

we are still mired in worldly thinking – selfish thinking –

stuck in systems that teach us impatience and feed our insecurities.

Jeremiah’s revelation mocks us:

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord…”

Why can’t you come now, God –

reach out to us in power and glory and change our minds, our circumstances?

Why, when the signs of change are all around us –

signs of doom and despair –

why does your kingdom still seem so distant?

These are our questions – thousands of years after the promise…

Even now, we forget that we are people of FAITH – people of HOPE.

We have fallen into a trap, and Jesus words from Luke’s gospel are meant to free us:

“Be on guard” – Jesus says – “don’t get weighed down with the worries of this life.

Be alert – lift up your heads – don’t get caught unawares…”

We would rather be terrified by these words –

it is easier to make them sound like the prelude to disaster

than it is to hear them as a call to patience – a call to expectant living.

You will see the Son of Man coming in power and glory…

the powers of the heavens will be shaken…

stand and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

These are not descriptions of particular events

so much as they indicate a change of attitude that is necessary to our faithful waiting.

God’s people have always been called to a special kind of watchfulness

invited to see things that others will not (or can not) see.

To be aware of opportunities to serve one another

to be ready to bear burdens that are not our own

to be willing to work for peace with an open hand, rather than a clenched fist.

Jeremiah encouraged people in the midst of a war zone that this was possible;

that this was God’s desire.

Jesus taught among people whose land had been occupied by the power of the day

promising redemption – calling the crowds to watch for the coming righteousness…

righteousness that was not to be found in political, economic or social gain

but in that mysterious re-connection with their covenant God.

And our impatience still blinds us to that righteousness.

Today we begin a cycle again – a cycle of teaching and reading and worship and celebration

that is meant to slow us down – to open our eyes – to lift up our heads and make us aware

of the nearness of God’s promised Kingdom – the reality of God’s righteousness.

We will work against the grain –

we will resist the call of instant gratification –

fight the urge to jump to the end of the story

and together savor the slow, subtle ways of God;

patient, against all odds.

Waiting for the promise to delight us

Waiting for our Saviour – who in truth is here among us.

Amen

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