Westminster Presbyterian: Actively waiting during the Advent season
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WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Westminster Presbyterian: Actively waiting during the Advent season

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Waiting is hard work.

Just ask a pregnant woman. Or a person awaiting results of a biopsy. Or someone whose spouse is deployed overseas. Or a laid-off breadwinner with multiple job applications pending. Or a person whose elderly parent’s health is slowly deteriorating.

This kind of waiting isn’t passive. The pregnant woman prepares her home and heart for the child’s arrival. The person who waits for biopsy results considers many options, and prepares himself for what might be a frightening new reality. The family of military personnel continue their daily lives with their loved one present in their thoughts and hearts. The job applicant completes more applications, trims expenses, and maybe takes short-term work to get by. Children of aging parents make their loved ones comfortable and at peace, preparing for an inevitable goodbye.

This waiting is active, preparing for something major and life-changing, which could be bad, good, or a mix of both. It is waiting which is filled with hope, even in the pain or anxiety of the moment. It is waiting in which life goes on, living day by day while preparing for the future. It is waiting which involves change, patience, and faith. Active waiting is an important part of life, and also an important part of a life of faith.

Today we enter into a period of the church year called Advent. Advent is a word meaning “coming” or “arrival.” It is the beginning of the church year and is a time of preparation and waiting for the coming of Christ.

On each of the four Sundays of Advent, we hear the Scripture passages from the Old Testament which foretell the coming of a Messiah. We hear the prophesies of Isaiah that “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,” and that “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them,” and that “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom.”

In Advent, we hear the stories in the New Testament of the coming birth of a new king who will be called “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” We hear about the Angel announcing to Mary that she has been chosen to bear God’s son and we listen to Mary’s song in which she sings in celebration of a new world which her son will shepherd in. We hear about John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for Jesus. We hear how an Angel tells Joseph that Mary is pregnant and that he should stand by her. On one level, we wait in Advent for the coming of the Christ Child.

But Advent is more. Jesus came, but the vision of his kingdom of justice and peace is yet to be fulfilled. On the Sundays of Advent, we light four candles, representing Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. As we light these candles, we remember that these are what God wants for all people, the reason He sent his son. And yet, these promises are yet to be fulfilled in our imperfect world. In Advent, we acknowledge that we live in a time between memory of the past and hope for the future.

An excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship says, “In Advent we expectantly wait for the One who has already come. We anticipate the promised justice of God’s new world, yet we praise God who raised the “righteous branch” to rule with justice and righteousness. We hope for the restoration of the afflicted, the tormented, and the grieving, yet we delight that healing has come in Christ. We long for the beating of swords into plowshares, yet we rejoice that the Prince of Peace has appeared. We dream of the land where lions and lambs live in harmony, yet we acclaim the child born to lead us into the promised land.”

This is how we actively wait in Advent. We work toward the world that the prophets foretold, that Jesus ushered in, that God wants us to have — a world of peace, justice, and shalom.

Jill Fandrich is a ruling elder and clerk of session at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 17 William St., Auburn, where she edits the newsletter, church website (westminsterauburn.org) and Facebook and Twitter pages.

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