St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Monday, November 29, 2021
Monday in the first week of Advent
The Art of Waiting:Advent is about waiting… But not all waiting is the same. In fact, we can distinguish two specific kinds of waiting. The first kind is waiting for the things we are certain will take place. The second kind is waiting without knowing what will happen. The first kind of waiting requires patience. The second kind of waiting requires trust.
A great deal of waiting in our life is of the first kind. It is the waiting we do as we wait in the checkout line. No matter how slow the people are in front of us, no matter how slow the cashier is, we know that if we are patient, if we hold on, we will eventually get to the head of the line, make our purchase, and be able to go home. This kind of waiting also applies as we anticipate an important celebration that is soon to occur. It is the waiting that children experience as they anticipate Christmas.. We know that if we hold on, time will pass, the day will come, and we will have the celebration. So this first kind of waiting has as its object a goal that is close to us and is clear.
The second kind of waiting has a goal that is less clear and less certain. It is the waiting of Advent. This kind of waiting occurs when someone we love is diagnosed with a serious illness. We wait to see what the treatment will be, if the treatment will succeed, if the health problem will be resolved. We hope for a healthy and positive resolution, but how and whether that resolution will occur is not always apparent. This second kind of waiting takes place as we look forward to the years ahead and retirement. We look for days in which we no longer have to bear the burden of a regular routine, when we will have our health, when we continue in some way to be productive. But how and whether that retirement will come in that way – or at all – is uncertain.
Some of the most important issues of life are that what we wait for in this second kind of waiting. It is certainly more significant than waiting in the checkout line. This second kind of waiting requires more trust than patience. This is the waiting of Advent. It is an act of faith, a belief that our lives are not random or arbitrary, that there is a God who is guiding our life out of love and toward salvation. Advent waiting is not simply a strategy. It is a way of life. If we enter into this kind of waiting, it changes us. It changes the way that we look at our present and at our future. It leads us to believe that however our life unfolds, God is part of that unfolding. What we are waiting for is God’s own Advent, God’s own coming into our lives. That’s why the gospel says that we need to be on guard – awake – aware. We need to be ready because we do not know when or how our God will arrive. So the waiting of Advent is a waiting of trust, of trust in a God who is with us, a God who will emerge in our lives. We wait expecting God’s arrival. We are not sure that God will bring the things we desire as we envision them. We may receive an altogether different future. But we believe, as we wait in trust, that we who place our trust in God will not be disappointed. George Smiga, 2007
“Be on guard…”from Sunday’s gospel
That phrase has been on my mind all week. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and the worries of this life…”
Dissipation: a dispersion, dissolution, disintegration – “the squandering of money, energy or resources”
We can pretty easily dissipate our energy, and our time. Dissipation is not the same things as rest. To rest, to stop our busy-ness is a wholly good thing. A necessary thing, an Advent thing.
But dissipating our time on “the worries of this life” is different. It isn’t planning ahead, or doing what is needed to resolve a problem. It’s throwing away the resources of strength, emotional energy, and time that we do have, so that at the end of the day we have nothing to show. The “worries of this life” are still there, but we are exhausted. Burned out.
The habit of spiritual and emotional dissipation does not leave us alert, on guard, or eagerly awaiting anything. It leaves our hearts “weighed down.”
This is why we need to be “on guard. “It isn’t an outside enemy that threatens our peace – or our focus – it is our own scattered energies distracted by every new attraction.
We don’t want to miss the signs, whatever they are, that God is coming to us in a new way, and that we need to run out to meet him when He comes.
The Hymns of Advent#59
The hymns of Advent are less familiar to us than most, because we sing them only at this time of year. But they have a great deal to say to us if we pay attention. I am posting the hymns again this year on our Facebook page so that you can listen to ones you might not know very well or at all.
“Cast away” – don’t simply drop – but throw away with vigor – all “works of darkness. “You know what those are. Why? Because you are “children of the day” – of light – of Jesus, the Dayspring, the Light. Be who you are.