Learning to Wait

Advent is a season of waiting.

In liturgical churches and homes, Advent begins with darkness lit by one candle. Advent reminds us of the world’s wait for God’s promised rescuer, the long-awaited One who would break the curse of sin and death.

Advent is a season of waiting, but we are an impatient people.

We hurry, our stores and homes exploding with decorations well before Advent begins. We rush to celebrate, jumping straight to bright lights, never allowing space for darkness. Who has time to slow down and consider that our story, the Christian story, is a story of waiting? Waiting not measured in hours, days, weeks or even years.

The Christian story is the story of waiting generations, centuries, epochs. We are a people who wait on God, meant to know how to trust God in the darkness. But we live in a culture of hurry, driving us to brighter and better and more, as if we don’t already have what we need.

So in Advent, we hear the Spirit’s invitation to slow down. To linger for a minute in darkness. To light candles, 1 at a time, Sunday by Sunday, remembering our story, asking God to shape us in the waiting. As we move into Advent this year, I offer an invitation and some practical suggestions for those of us trained by our culture to be impatient and wait-resistant.

The invitation:

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14

Consider the question “What are we waiting FOR?”  Are we waiting for God to do what we want (or need?) Are we waiting for relief, for answers, for control, for the next stage of life, for changes in our circumstances or relationships?

None of these are bad or wrong. But if I’m waiting on answers, my focus is on my questions, not on the One who answers. If I’m waiting on change, my focus is on my circumstances, not on the One who is with me in every circumstance. If I’m waiting for the next stage of life to begin – to get married, to have kids, to get a new job, to get the kids all in school, to get the kids all graduated – then my focus is on the calendar and the clock, not on the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

We are a people who wait on the Lord.

What would it look like for you, this 4 week season of Advent, to wait first and foremost on Jesus? To watch for His movements, His agenda, His presence in your every day life?

A few options to practice waiting on God this Advent Season:

Choose a time each day this season to sit in prayerful silence, to be alone with Jesus, for 5-10 minutes. Turn your focus to Him, quiet your mind, and as Emily P. Freeman says, “Sit down on the inside.” This is harder than it sounds.

Buy 4 candles for your kitchen table, and each Sunday light one. For the first week, you’ll eat by the light of one candle. In the second week 2 candles, in the third week you light 3 and so on through Advent. Start in semi-darkness, and think about how slowly the light comes (but it does come.)

Do a thought experiment this Advent season: When you think about next year, the future, any worries or fears you carry, refuse to consider a future where God isn’t. So many of our worries center a God-less existence, as if we don’t have a Savior who is active in our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Actively imagine Jesus standing next to you in your imagined future.

Take advantage of the opportunities life offers to practice waiting in patience. Sitting at stoplights, waiting in lines, sitting in waiting rooms: Rather than scroll or complain or distract, turn your thoughts to Jesus. Remember that He is here, and He is good. Thank Him for being with you in the waiting.

May God meet you in new and surprising ways in this Advent season of waiting.

If you’d like to read more on this topic by Renee, check out her devotional, Waiting on God: A 4 Week Advent Devotional with Journaling and Conversation Prompts. It’s a great daily resource for reflecting on Jesus during this holiday season.

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