Waiting... The Posture of Advent

David Ruis, Nov 25, 2021, 4:00 PM
Copy of The Gift of Advent  (Facebook Post).jpg
"Our spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination or prediction. This, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control ... waiting time is not wasting time. Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of spiritual life."
Henry Nouwen

Heads up. This watchword has been consistently coming up right across our national family as we lean into prayer and listening to the Spirit together. It is a wooing of His voice that we just can't ignore. On top of it all, the season of advent is upon us. This already is to be a time that deliberately builds into our calendars, into the rhythm of time, a reminder of our waiting. Just as God's people waited, generation after generation, for the promised King who would one day come to sit on David's throne forever and redeem Israel, so we now await his second coming. As is the entire message of Christmas, this is not something that is relegated to one time a year, but is to be a regular part of who we are as people of intimacy and in relationship with the Trinity.

Cathy Graham, Vineyard Canada's Spiritual Life Coordinator, says this about the spiritual discipline of waiting:

"I look forward to waiting the way you might look forward to a good chat with a best friend. Intimate, warm, safe, and transparent. Waiting is fearless because the Listener is all-knowing and endlessly compassionate. Waiting is fluid, never stagnant. It is active and reciprocal, in that there is expectancy that is always rewarded! I've never come away from waiting on the Lord without some sense of his presence, even if he is silent, I am filled with a peace that I didn't have before. Words and impressions are icing on the cake, his love and friendship trump's revelation all the time, every time.

I want Jesus, I want to know his heart for me today and I want to know how he's feeling. "How are you today, Lord? What's on your mind?" And...I wait."

Ignatian spirituality highlights three aspects of this discipline which are quite helpful as we think through what it means to cultivate this in our lives and communities.

Waiting is expectant.
Waiting requires space
Waiting is hopeful

Tapping our Quaker Roots in the Vineyard, it is important to note that this is not only an individual thing to experience, but is deeply embedded in our understanding of what it means to come together in worship. In that tradition it is known as "silence and expectant waiting." This really does require intentionality and attentive focus to hold this as a central value in gathering, and as the Quakers say, "this path is strewn with distractions." This is not realized by simply leaning into more liturgy or embracing contemplative models. It is a way. A posture. A value. This communal discipline is something that we feel we need to be revisiting and reimagining in our various Vineyard expressions across the country.

We can so easily miss this in the pace of life, living and ministry. Even in our commitment to other aspects of spiritual disciplines and building communities of faith, this quality can be lost. At this time of year as well, we can of course, if we choose, rush right into Christmas, as we are swept into the hectic pace of the holidays and completely miss out on the liturgy, the discipline of waiting. But may we suggest, in all facets of life, doing so comes at a cost. "Without the discipline of waiting, there is no growth in relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," Cathy Graham says. "Maybe that's bold to say but I believe it in my bones."

Here's another aspect of waiting to think about. Nouwen says, "Learning to weep, learning to keep vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human." Do we not only lose out on the beauty and grace of a spiritual discipline and the depth of intimacy with the Lord it affords if we ignore waiting, but, as is suggested here, lose an aspect of what it means to be truly human. To be aware. To be present. To slow down enough to give room - make room - for others at this table.

In the waiting for the presence of God with us, and ultimately the return of Jesus, our longing is not "only" for Him, but for others. For God waits too. A thousand years? Another day? Time isn't the issue. God is not slow in making good on His promises. He's waiting. As the Message translation captures this sentiment in 2 Peter 3:8-10. He's "restraining himself ... giving everyone space and time to change."

So we wait.

We hope.

We lean into peace.

We cultivate joy.

And we love.

"Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
2 Timothy 4:8
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus