THE WAITING GAME
We all have to learn how to play the waiting game. Waiting is built into being human; but it is how we wait which colours our experience and often shapes the meaning of waiting.
Waiting for the results of a biopsy can induce stress and anxiety of a kind which is qualitatively different from the experience of waiting for the birth of a child.
Waiting for a loved one to be released from a painful illness and to die into God is different again from waiting for the arrival of a friend from overseas.
We are schooled as Christians to wait in joyful hope. In Advent we wait for the birth of Jesus, not just with a cuddly feel-good sentiment of Christmases past but with a vibrant expectancy of Jesus being born anew in us this Christmas. These easy words can trip us up.
If Christ really is born in us, our lives will change: we will be drawn into God, we will experience an inner compulsion to reach out to the poor, we will never be content with unjust structures, we will be restless for the Kingdom of justice, love and peace.
How then should we wait this Advent 2011?
Yes, we should cherish some special moments of prayer each day; yes, we should be mindful in our preparations for Christmas of those for whom Christmas only emphasises their poverty; yes, we should help those around us –in the family and at work- to grasp the real meaning of Christmas.
But the Church has an Advent secret which, unfortunately, it has kept to itself so much that it has all but vanished from tradition Catholic practice and that is: the vigil. Advent is a time of watching and waiting and this is dramatically symbolized in the practice of keeping vigil. This really means stealing a little time from sleep. Advent opened with the Gospel words: Stay awake. Perhaps this Advent we can stay alert in prayer by keeping a “mini-vigil” of say, 15 minutes, from our sleep- time to simply wait for the coming of the Lord.
Fr Seán Wales, C.Ss.R