Waiting Well

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, December 8, 2023

The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, and prediction.

—Henri Nouwen

I am not good at waiting. I want to be seated as soon as I get to the restaurant. I barely tolerate the coming attractions before the featured movie when I go to the theater. On our visit to several amusement parks last summer, I convinced my spouse to shell out the extra money for fast passes so I didn’t have to wait in line for the rides. But, I have always appreciated the practice and posture of waiting to which the season of Advent invites us. I’ve found that it is worth waiting for someone or something to break through the morass of the world’s failure and futility as God promised. I’m thinking about the quality of our waiting that nurtures us with courage, imagination, and spiritual power.

When we talk about Advent as a season of waiting, even if we spiritually and theologically trust that we are waiting for God to do a new thing in our midst, we should not be surprised when people wonder how long we must wait or what we can do to shorten the wait. How often do we think about how to wait differently than the usual wait in restaurants, movies, and amusement parks that frustrates us? How do we infuse meaning and purpose into our waiting? What does active waiting look like for you?

We often think of waiting as passive, that we are powerless to actively engage or cooperate with God in the new thing unfolding. Priest and theologian Henri Nouwen sees waiting as an opportunity to be present to the moment, expecting to encounter God’s hopeful, peaceful, joyful, and living presence in ways that grow and hasten the illumination of the light of love. What does the anticipation of the Divine promise and presence call us to do now? Some of the Gospel readings during Advent offer potent examples of the waiting that trusts the movement of God. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, demonstrate what it means to anticipate the movement of God even when it confounds their expectations. God’s active engagement in the circumstances of these women from the margins illustrates how each of us, in our own ways and circumstances, can cooperate with God in the new thing God is doing in the world. Perhaps Advent waiting is our time to live with God embodied—real, alive, with us, and within us. Active waiting invites us to consider how we may act or move to respond to God’s love and peace in a world that possesses anything but such love and peace. May you come alive to the moment as you wait for God’s presence with us. Amen.