Waiting and Working in the Season of Advent

November 30, 2017

One of the simple joys in my life is reading a book to one of my kids at bedtime. A favorite book that we read is one in a series by Mo Willems that is called Waiting is Not Easy.

It’s a conversation between two friends, a pig and an elephant. The pig has a present he wants to share with the elephant, but he can’t share it until the right moment. In the meantime, the elephant is unsettled in his anticipation. He pleads, he begs, he lashes out in frustration, and he GROANS as he waits.

My kids laugh when I read the elephant’s lines because they know they’ve been there. I have an easy time getting in character because I’ve been there, too!

Advent is a time of waiting, and the reason the waiting is not easy is because, as followers of Jesus, we are waiting for a whole lot more than presents under the tree. We are waiting for this broken world to be healed. We are waiting for Christ to set things right. And we are aware of the many, many things that are broken; of the many, many ways things are not right.

I’ve been groaning a lot in recent weeks.

Unspeakable mass shootings in places of worship – both in Texas and, last week, in Egypt.  A cascade of revelations around sexual assault and harassment. Headlines like these are always a cause for grief, but in recent weeks I’ve felt something else, too: an angry impatience. I’ve been thinking about my kids who are growing up learning lock-down drills at school. I’ve been thinking about you – my parishioners – who might question whether the sanctuary is safe. I’ve been thinking about my little girl – and whether the world would believe her testimony or the denials of a powerful man if she were ever the victim of sexual misconduct.

Instead of hearing our leaders declare that this madness must stop, what I hear instead are arguments about the Second Amendment and how the those who are accused might change the political calculus around tax reform.

It’s not that I know what the solutions are to the brokenness that faces us, nor think those solutions are simple. What angers me is that we don’t appear to have the courage to decide that things must change. I am impatient with our tendency to accept the brokenness of the world as the way things are, because I believe God asks us to trust and work for the promise that we read about in the Bible, which describes the way the world will be.

We wait and we work for that vision of the world precisely because we are not satisfied with the status quo. It might be easy just to keep our heads down, navigate this world the best we can, and convince ourselves that things can’t change. But faith isn’t about what is easy. Faith moves us toward what is holy. And, ultimately, we know that even in this current darkness, there is a light that nothing can overcome.

– Pen Peery