What are you waiting for? It’s a generic kind of query. A girlfriend may be thinking it silently when contemplating the prospect of a ring from her beloved. It’s the taunt of someone standing with you on a precipice, daring you to dive into the water. Well, what ARE you waiting for?
Advent of course is all about waiting. We can be consumed by the the meanings that accompany waiting, while sometimes forgetting the focus of our vigil. Christians around the world are awaiting the kingdom of God that arrived with the first Christmas but will be completed only with Christ’s return. Anticipating what has not yet come about can expose you to ridicule. The world has been waiting a long time, two thousand years and counting. Even in Bible times Christians were mocked for this. “What are you waiting for?” people chided. In the second book of Peter, he advises his congregation, “They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”’
Too much waiting can throw you off. In his letters to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul criticizes his congregation for lapsing into apathy, stuck not knowing quite what to do with their time, and what to expect between the now and the promised kingdom. Some thought that the hope for eternal life meant that what they did in this world no longer mattered. In his letter Paul presses them to take heart and to work diligently in the present. While the coming of the Christ child dominates Advent, it is his second coming which gives hope and and sustains. We are buoyed by the promise of things yet to be accomplished with the fullness of time.
Samuel Beckett, was an Irish-American playwright who took a poke at this hope with his play Waiting for Godot. The play mocked the Christian enlightenment for waiting endlessly for the promised Messiah to return. In his play, you might gather that you will wait for Godot for a long time. The play unfolds with everyone sitting around pining away. Those idiots are wasting their time. Godot does not arrive and that is the point of the play.
Gods’s word is dynamic and linear by nature. It moves. Its focus - the promised Messiah, and God’s ensuing plan for mankind. Our timeline starts with an event in history where God enters the human story. While Christmas begins with a cradle, its meaning becomes clear with the Cross and resurrection. Everything moves forwards from that apex in time, to be completed when the faithful in Christ are finally gathered.
A lot of effort is devoted to burying the Christian story at the heart of Christmas. A recent news article detailed the many available cards now available by which you can wish your friends a merry Kwanza, Hanukkah, or Diwali. Such writers delight in sapping Christmas of any meaning. We are encouraged to secularize our expectations, to wait for a nice present, for a family get-together, wait for some time off, or for something more realistic. But Christians are not ashamed to place our hope in a person. We are joyful heralds of the coming King.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to put a fine point on what guides you through the season. I’m not waiting for Godot, as some may imagine. I am looking to Christ, author and finisher of my faith – the bookends for human history. He is worth waiting for. He is the focus of our hope, the person of Jesus Christ, coming first at Christmas and yet to come again.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24