Space in Waiting


"They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old."
[ Luke 1:6-7 ]

In the Christian tradition, the new year begins with the season of Advent, which strangely enough, is a season of waiting. If I'm honest, I'm uneasy at best when asked to wait. I remember the month before Andrea and I got married, I was nervous--waiting amid the excitement and joy of that summer. Other times, life has flat-out forced me to wait in agony, wondering if I was cursed by God or worse. Seasons of waiting and anticipation happen in life whether desired or dreaded. But, I think waiting does something within us that nothing else is able to accomplish.

Waiting creates space.

The Gospel of Luke is fascinating in the context of Advent because the storyteller immerses us immediately into a season of waiting, both as readers and in the lives of the characters. The narrative doesn't begin with Jesus. Instead, we meet an elderly couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, on a journey that's rupturing with anticipation and disappointment. They share a deep devotion to God as well as the sorrow and shame that accompanied being barren in an ancient society. Now, at their ages, the chances of having children are all but impossible, leaving us to imagine those long years marred by the anxiety of their waiting. Where is God's favor? Why did this not happen for us? How are we to continue our faithful lives for a God that's forgotten us?

There are conflicting opinions about Advent's importance, or lack thereof, in Christianity today. Some insist that it isn't helpful (or even ridiculous) to spend this season in waiting and expectation of someone (Jesus) and something (the Kingdom of God) we already agree happened! However, it seems to me that it was at least important for the author of Luke's Gospel to immerse the audience in an experience of expectation before anything else. We know the feeling of waiting, doubt, and anxiety all too well, which may be reason enough to acknowledge it for a season each year. More importantly, though, I find that Advent is particularly necessary because this season of waiting actually creates the space within us and our world for God to come and inhabit.

In the season of Advent, may we accept the invitation to anticipate both the Christ-child and the second coming of Christ, and may we wait with an intention that God is imagining a new world and forming new spaces within us amid feelings of loss and loneliness. May we wait to experience God in the most unlikely places as we also anticipate our future encounter with God's promise of an entire universe reconciled to love, peace, and justice.

Question: What spaces may God be creating during this season?