It’s the early 1970’s and I’m a simple suburban kid hanging out at a neighborhood swimming pool. The moment of anxiety came as I stood, peering over the edge, from atop a wobbly diving board. In that moment the crowd below let me know that I was taking an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y to jump in. “Come on already,” they clamored, “what on earth are you waiting for?”
Well, to be honest, I was waiting to feel brave. I had so hoped the sheer act of climbing the rungs of the ladder and stepping out on the board would prepare me for what came next. But in that moment I needed time to wait and ponder what to do next.
Life is like this. Is it not? We know it is so because scripture is rife with stories of people waiting. Gideon, Mary of Nazareth, and John the Baptist, to name a few. Gideon’s story of waiting required him to deplete his resources in order to be assured that victory comes from the LORD alone. In other words, wait on the Lord, and then “go in the strength that you have” (Judges 6:14).
Mary’s story of waiting means delaying her life plans to marry and settle down. Instead she and Joseph both set aside convention when they accept God’s invitation to parent Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 1:23-25).
John the Baptist is weary of waiting. From prison, the accounts he hears of Jesus’ ministry of teaching, healing, and preaching do not add up to what John was expecting of Israel’s Messiah. So he sends his disciples to inquire, “Are you the One we’ve been waiting for or should we expect someone else?”.
Biblical waiting is an invitation to listen for God’s voice and to gather up courage for what lies ahead. It is expectant waiting taking place in hope. When facing depletion or detour or unmet expectations, waiting in expectant hope grounds us in God’s assurance of promises made and kept.
The time came for the kid on the high dive to act. My courage returned as my parents beckoned to me, “you can do this Shari, jump!” Looking at them reminded me that I had been jumping off things my whole life long: bedsides, traffic curbs, edges of pools. 1… 2… 3… Kersplash!
What on earth are you waiting for? Courage to mend a relationship perhaps? Wisdom about God’s timing and provision for a career move, expansion of your family, strengthening of a bottom line, the calling of a new pastor? The wherewithal to endure pain and loss?
Service of the Longest Night is a practice in Biblical waiting set in a contemplative worship service for those who carry burdens in this season and those who love them. It takes place on Thursday evening December 21st at 7 pm in the sanctuary at West Side. Everyone waiting on the light of Christ to shine in this season is welcome. Neighborhood churches are participating as well. Childcare is provided. Dress is casual. Come. Hear God’s Word. Light a candle. Receive Communion. Pray. Sing. Or wait in silence. How you wait is up to you.
Whatever your story of waiting may be, we know who waits with us. Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary, burdened, worn out, waiting, and I will give you rest.”
May you see Christ this Advent through the eyes of expectant hope.
Waiting with you,
~ Pastor Shari