Monday, December 20, 2010
Wait upon the Lord.
The call of Advent is to slow down. It is not Christmas – at least not yet. But Advent is not some speed bump on the way to a busy holiday season. We slow down our urgent pace in order to be patient, to live patient lives, to trust in the Lord when dark the road or confusing the path. Advent is a call not to rush the Lord or push Him along, but to wait upon the Lord and to await His revelation of the right time, the fullness of time, the ripe moment, and fruitful time.
Who wants to wait? Who wants to slow down. Life is short, the world moves fast. We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare but none of us wants to be anything but the rabbit. Amid all the other terrible crosses we must bear in this life, God places one more burden on us and tells us to wait on Him, to wait upon His timing, and to trust in Him when everything around us says nothing is happening. Why, Israel waited thousands of years before the Christmas darkness dawned with light and hope. Who could blame them for giving up on God and turning their attention away from Him and on to themselves? We may wait even longer for the story of Christ to be finished; will we also grow impatient and turn away from the Lord and on to ourselves?
Be patient, God asks of us. You know the Word of the Lord, the Spirit dwells within you – transforming your mind – what you hope for and desire is on its way - just not yet. The example of the farmer. I grew up around the farm, in a farming community and the farmer does a whole lot of waiting. It is not the idle waiting of a wait and see attitude but the purposeful waiting of one who knows what is his to do and what is not. If the seeds were planted, the soil fertilized, the crops weeded, then it is up to the God of heaven to finish it. It is a purposeful waiting as the farmer does for the harvest. This is the patient and purposeful waiting God's people do upon the Lord. We wait for what we know is coming – not for what ifs or what might be. We wait not to see what the conclusion might be but because we know the outcome in Christ.
We wait as strangers wait to be shown the way. As you must wait upon those who know the place better than you, we wait upon the Lord. He has already died and rose to new life. He has already ascended to the heavenly places. We wait for Him because He knows the way and only He can lead us where we need to go. We wait for Him because He knows where we are going. He is the author, the pioneer, the first born of those who will follow Him. So we wait for Him who knows the way.
We wait as people wait for the honored guests to come. In the East, it is not the front of the line that is the honored place but the end of the line. Now you would never know that from one of our pot lucks. We wait upon the Lord as those who wait for Him who is the last to come, the bridegroom who comes to the wedding. We wait upon the Lord in honor of Him who is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. The party will not begin until He comes to begin it. So we wait for Him and are busy with His work until He comes.
We wait upon the Lord in whatever circumstances our lives are in – we don't head out to the mountain top to camp out for the Lord. Peter was so full of himself he missed the absurdity of three tents on the Mount of Transfiguration. We don't go somewhere else to wait for the Lord to finish His new creation. We wait upon the Lord right where we are at – in the bonds of marriage, within our human families, as workers for our employers, and as good citizens of our communities. We wait where we are at, doing what we do as vocation from the Lord, for the Lord to come and finish this new creation.
This means that sufferings and trials cannot be avoided. As long as wear this human flesh and blood, we will bear the marks of life's struggles. Like Job of old who was wounded and alone and still remained faithful to God, so we find ourselves often alone, hurting, and struggling. I have never met anyone who wanted to be like Job but in many respects we are all like Job. We wear the scars of the past, the bleeding wounds of our fallen mortality, and we lament what we cannot understand and what has made us seem so terribly alone. But, like Job, we trust in the Lord. We wait for the Lord. Faith waits for the fullness of God’s grace and mercy to unfold when everything around us says “no” – faith says “yes!”
We wait in the certain hope and confidence that the Lord will keep His Word. The prophets of old had little understanding of God's ways but they knew enough to trust the Word of the Lord to deliver what it says. None of them knew exactly how the Word of the Lord they spoke would actually unfold over time and history. They did not need to know this. They knew the Lord was trustworthy and true. So they called the people to wait upon the Lord in repentance and faith. The same goes for us.
We do not have a crystal ball to see tomorrow before it happens. Like the prophets of old who spoke within nothing but their confidence in the God who keeps their promises, so do hold onto God's Word and wait upon the Lord. It is not as if we are not resigned to trusting in the Lord. We trust Him because He is trustworthy, we wait for Him because He delivers on what He has promised. We wait as a people who expect what God has promised. So we cling to His Word because that Word holds of our future in it.
We have seen the manger. We have watched the cross. We have looked into the empty tomb. Because we have seen God's works in the past, we wait for the greater mercy and grace to be revealed when He comes in His glory to finish what these began. We have met Him in the baptismal water. We have met Him in the absolution. We have met Him in the bread which is His body and the cup of His blood. Because we have received the grace given to us in the Word and Sacraments, we wait for the finishing of the new creation, for the fulfillment of our hope, and the final unveiling of our own future in Him.
Fools are always rushing in where the brave and wise dare not tread. We are no different. We run through life indulging ourselves while ignoring the cost of such self-indulgence. We allow the distractions of the moment to steal our hope. We allows the press of our desires and our want for things to happen right away to erode our faith and confidence in God. We take upon ourselves the things which belong only to God. We live with our fears instead of laying those fears before the cross. Today we are told to be patient. To wait upon the Lord. Not to presume but to have faith, not to work it our for ourselves but to place our confidence in the grace of God revealed in Christ our Savior.
You have grace to guide you through each day, You have God's presence and peace as Your constant companions. You have the track record of God's words kept and His works revealed in the past. So be patient. All you need is trust – God has all the rest covered. All you need is faith, God will do all else.