Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Waiting in Bethlehem

 I think Bethlehem was full of waiters that star-bright night. It is not clear from Scripture if Caesar’s great census had already begun, was on-going, or yet to come. Maybe the travelers had to establish residency before they could be counted. Maybe the Bethlehemites had finished registering and were waiting for all the crowds to disperse. Maybe everyone was standing around, waiting in line. Mary was certainly waiting for the pangs of labor to begin, and her child to be born.

I read two blogs this week that spoke a lot about waiting. I want to share an excerpt from both of them here. Waiting is a topic I yearn to understand more. It fills my thoughts and prayers. But the waiting of Advent is a little different, it allows me to take a step back from my own preoccupations and consider how God has used waiting to form the Greatest Story, a story both relevant-to and bigger-than any of us.

In reflecting about this season of Advent, Kari Bauman, from Through a Glass, Darkly, says:

“I have wrestled with my misfit tendencies and begun to carve out a place for myself. I have wrestled with the Bible and discovered a new love for the story it tells. I have wrestled with God and found a new peace in my faith. This is my favorite story, the Incarnation. Every year, over and over, again and one more time we return to it.”

Prior to this, she says

“We talk about the expectant kind of waiting during Advent, but it also seems like a fitting time to acknowledge that a lot of times we don’t know what we are waiting for or how long it might take to come to pass. One of those ways we pass the time is to tell our stories, to remind ourselves of where we have been even as we cannot know where the path ahead is taking us.”

Advent helps us practice the discipline of setting up pillars to remind us of what has come before. But it also provides a sacred time to point us to Jesus’ return. Betsy Childs Howard, author of Seasons of Waiting, describes it this way:

“Advent is about more than waiting for Christmas. The word “advent” means “coming.” During Advent, we not only remember that Jesus came to earth as a man; we prepare our hearts for his second coming. When we sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” we are not role-playing what the ancient Israelites must have prayed before the coming of the Messiah. No, we are praying that Emmanuel would return and make right all that is wrong with the world. When we sing, “Let every heart prepare him room,” we are not retroactively chastising the innkeepers of Bethlehem; we are preaching to all of the souls within earshot to be ready to meet their Judge and Maker unafraid.
If your heart is heavier than you’d like this Advent season, take hope that the joys of Christmas aren’t ultimately what you wait for. The very best Christmas—one in which every family member sits around the table, speaks sweetly to everyone else, and prefers giving to receiving—is a pale shadow of the rejoicing to come. Let the fact that your heart aches point you beyond Christmas to the better celebration still to come. Join with the voices of Christians around the world, who together pray, ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel.’”

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is one of my favorite Christmas hymns. It is rich in theology, deeply meaningful for Advent, and best of all, it is a prayer. A prayer to guide us, through whatever season of waiting we are in.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.