Advent is a time of knowing our need of God and turning to him with joyful hope, waiting for the salvation God will bring. The changing seasons bid us to befriend waiting. Whether it is the first snowfall of winter or the first cuckoo call of spring we wait until the moment is given, not being able to bring it about by our own efforts, or even say: ‘It will happen on such a such a day.’
Perhaps in our time we are culturally estranged from waiting. Waiting is a form of curse: a breakdown of the system and a manifestation of inefficiency. It is what we do when things have gone wrong or don’t work. We wait for the delayed train, the slow internet connection, the automated and uncaring customer ‘care’ line. Waiting is rarely a good. The urban world is built around speed. The great endeavour is saving time. The watchword is being in control and so not having to be dependent upon another. All falls apart when we’re stuck in the traffic jam, more powerless to move forward than Moses before the waters of the Red Sea.
The Christian year begins not with the great feasts of Christmas, Easter or Pentecost but with waiting. Advent is in many ways a stark season – a time to be in touch with inner emptiness and need. It is a season of longing directed towards Christ, revealed as God-with-us, Emmanuel. The world begins not with an act but with a space: with the formless void that the Spirit hovers over, with the dust of the earth from which humankind will be formed, and with the sometimes painful recognition of our incompleteness. Advent is a season of waiting, but in hope and in expectation:
The beginning is the meeting of our longing and God’s generous giving. We do not make ourselves: we create the space for our making. Advent reminds us that everything is gift and that God goes on creating – if we only allow the room. Tiredness, restlessness, the inability to bring about meaningful change can become the open door to God if we turn that way. The beginning is not the act, but the waiting.