Advent #4…Series C
Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church (December 21st, 2003)
Title: WAITING for the WORD!!
Text: Luke 1:39-56
On Thursday evening (after the Worship and Liturgy Committee meeting), Susan and I traveled to Allentown to pay a brief, pre-Christmas visit with our youngest son, Zach, his wife Lauren and our grandson Harrison. Our daughter-in-law is in the sixth month of pregnancy and, God-willing-in April we will welcome our 8th grandchild (and our fifth grandson) into the family. And seeing our lovely daughter-in-law, beautifully pregnant, I was reminded of the wonderful Gospel story of the Visitation of the blessed Virgin Mary with her relative Elizabeth…our Gospel for this 4th and final Sunday of Advent.
I don’t know about you, but I have always felt that pregnancy is a powerful and a lovely metaphor for Advent, and these two faith-filled pregnant women…Mary and Elisabeth, are role models of the spiritual life…the life of authentic Christian discipleship.
I think that the most powerful connection between pregnancy and Advent is waiting. I am told (I don’t know this from personal experience) but I am told that pregnant women are constantly waiting…it is what they do for nine months! They wait for just the right time to share the news of the new life growing inside them with family, friends and loved ones…they wait for the nausea and morning sickness of the first trimester to pass…they wait for the first signs of the new life (the movement of tiny arms and legs and a fetal heartbeat)…they wait for labor to finally begin. Pregnant women wait…it’s what they do. And Advent is all about waiting…in Advent we wait not just to celebrate, once again, the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem…but we wait for Christ’s 2nd Advent…when he will come again, this time in power and great glory, at the culmination of human history.
Friends, Mary and Elizabeth are role-models of the spiritual life…the life of Christian discipleship, precisely because these two faith-filled pregnant women teach us what Advent waiting is all about. They teach us that Advent waiting has three essential characteristics.
First, Advent waiting is waiting which is inspired and energized, moved and motivated by the power of a sacred promise! Like Mary and Elizabeth, our Advent waiting must be inspired and energized by the wonderful promise that God’s dream of a Kingdom characterized by justice, peace and love…a Kingdom without war and violence…a Kingdom where every person is treated like a child of God…a Kingdom where there are no outcast…is certainly coming…it is on it’s way. And it is because we know and believe that God’s Kingdom is coming and, ultimately, God’s will WILL be done (on earth as it is in heaven) that we are able to wait today, and tomorrow and for as long as we need to wait!
The second characteristic of Advent waiting is that it is waiting that is “Open Ended”. This is what makes Advent waiting (or, for that matter, any kind of waiting) so difficult for so many people. Much of our waiting is filled with concrete and tangible things we are waiting for…much of our waiting is filled with our WISHES…things we wish we had or things we wish would happen…our hopes/dreams/expectations for ourselves and for those we love and care about. But when our waiting is filled with our wishes, it can easily become manipulative…a futile attempt to control the future. But Mary and Elizabeth’s waiting was “Open Ended” …it wasn’t filled with wishes…it wasn’t filled with their own hopes/dreams/expectations. Instead, their waiting was filled with trust…trust in God’s purpose and plans for them and for the world… and because it was filled with trust, it was also filled with HOPE!
The final characteristic of Advent waiting is that it is not waiting in isolation…waiting which is separated from one another… but it is in waiting in community…waiting in relationship with one another…it is WAITING TOGETHER. Mary and Elizabeth waited together for three months in the hill country of Judea, and it was in their waiting together that they created space for each other to wait. And we must wait together…because it is only when we wait together that our faith is rekindled…our hope is renewed and our joy is restored!
My friends, here is the Good News that we celebrate on this fourth and final Sunday of Advent. When we wait, as Mary and Elizabeth waited. When our waiting is inspired and energized by the promise that God’s Kingdom is surely coming and that ultimately God’s will WILL BE DONE (on earth as it is in heaven)…when our waiting is open-ended (not filled with our own wishes and desires and expectations) and when we wait together, in community, then our waiting will be filled with light and life…it will be filled with joy and peace…and we will, once again, be ready to receive into our hearts and into our lives and into church the breath-taking Good News of the birth of the Messiah…the Christ…the Redeemer and Savior of this bruised and broken world…
Lord…teach us to WAIT!