The Long Wait

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, December 1, 2023

“With luck, trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content of sorts.
Miracles occur, if you dare to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles.
The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent”

—Sylvia Plath, “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”

The theologian Fleming Rutledge maintained that “Advent begins in the dark.” And yet, the season calls for waiting. We buckle in for the long wait for light, justice, goodness, and things to be made right. The poet Sylvia Plath described the wait for the presence of light, that miraculous radiance, as “the long wait for the angel.” We are willing to wait because we believe in the promise of light. We open ourselves to the daily miracle of God’s presence, a radiance manifested in hope, peace, joy, and love that breaks through darkness, despair, and exhaustion. It is in the depths of darkness, just as we are nearly overwhelmed by futility, when we realize that, as Rutledge describes it, “something ultimate has entered our world, something or Someone that calls us to attention, calls us out of our daily preoccupations and our routine points of view.” In hope, we say “yes” even though the world remains broken, divided, and violent, moving along as if there is no light. We live in this in-between time, saying “YES” to God with us while asking God to come again. In the face of war, hatred, suffering, and oppression, we have hope that God will come and make things right.

Yes, Advent begins in the dark, but hope makes it bearable and endurable. We hope, even when all the available evidence suggests that to do so is futile and ridiculous. All around us indicates that the peace, justice, and liberation God promised are nowhere near possible or immanent. Because we know the experience of God with us, we live in hope that the world will bend to God’s dream for creation. It makes no sense, and we do it anyway. Hope is both a gift and a burden: a gift because we get to focus on a long-desired possibility that God promises, and a burden because we know how far away we are from it.

So, during Advent, we know things are not as they should be. We know that injustice and oppression distort our communities. We know that inequality and domination make it hard for too many people to live whole lives. And yet, we accept the invitation of Advent to see beyond the brokenness of our current reality, projecting a hoped-for future onto the present. The wait is long, but we take the opportunity to see God active and present in a way that eludes the world but remains a source of hope. As we embark on the sacramental journey of Advent, may God continue to inspire us with the gift of hope.