It is the cry of our hearts when we have no other answers. When the darkness seems too deep, the winter seems too long. When the world is silent, and the night is lonely.
Where is the victorious King that we have been promised? Where is our God's mighty reign? We cry out to God in our pain and our brokenness.
And in reply, we are told to wait.
To wait? How can this be? Is this not the constant platitude of the self-righteous? Of the scholars of the Law who tell us to let the process to run its course, to wait for the system to do its work? Dr. King replied to such as these "for years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'"
But we do not serve a God of the 'never.' And even as our hearts break, our God of the 'not yet' hears our cries: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage.” We hear the promise that "those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint."
For our waiting is not one of earthly aspiration. We do not wait for laws or officials to fulfill that which they should never have promised. We do not wait for systems to be dismantlement and rebuilt as slightly different versions of themselves. We do not wait for more idle talk and wringing of hands.
We do not wait for empty solutions like these.
We wait on the Lord.
And ours is not a passive, feeble waiting. One that lies listless and anemic in the face of present trials. Ours is the alert anticipation of a poised runner at the starting line. Ours is the energy of a coiled spring, bent but not broken, strengthened by the tension, and prepared to be released in the moment of God's anointing.
We are ready. Christ is coming.
We wait with a hunger that compels us to live out our hope for justice in this world, and brings us strength even as we stumble. Like the shepherds, we stay awake to what God is doing, ready to act upon the proclamation of Good News. Like the Magi, we leave our comfort and familiarity, giving of our resources in response to scripture's promise.
God commands: "prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed." We are to live "lives of holiness and Godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God." We do the work here, knowing that we participate in the ultimate fulfillment of God's justice in the New Kingdom. We do the work now, assured that the justice we begin today will one day be completed.
In this time, "we neither ignore the brokenness in us and around us, nor do we ignore the transformative power of Christ." We hold to the promises of God with all of the preparedness and expectation of a Church that truly believes in His coming.
During Advent, we remember an exiled Israel, longing for restoration. An Israel that for centuries waited, hoped, and prayed knowing that the same God that delivered them from Egypt would bring forth a Messiah for their ultimate Salvation. Today, Advent calls us to remember that first coming of the Christ, even as we anticipate the His second. So too, in our work today is grounded in our history, our pain, our journey even as we labor with longing toward our future.
The waiting in this way is uncomfortable. It’s messy. We long to rush to resolution. We feel the need to rationalize our pain, our confusion. We are lost, and so we cling to any direction we can find. We simplify and we minimize. We reduce the complexities of a fallen world into catch phrases and 'teachable moments.'
But even as we anticipate Christ's coming, we know that God is already here, whispering to us in this Advent season: "Fear not, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."