As I was walking my dog Lion this morning, to keep my mind off this horrible cold, I was meditating on the idea of Advent, of waiting. The Holy Spirit gave me two phrases to turn over in my mind: Don’t waste the wait and anticipation not distraction. It struck me as odd at first. Don’t waste the wait. Anticipation not distraction.
This year has been a year when many of us seem stuck. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s difficult to see progress in our own lives when it feels as if we’ve been stuck at home, stuck in neutral in our careers, stuck in a muddled present as we eagerly await a future that’s free from lockdowns and quarantines. For some of us the waiting isn’t to be free from Covid but like me, it is waiting for God to act in a situation, waiting to see Him work in someone’s life, hoping against all hope that He will step into the situation bringing restoration and revelation. And so this brings me to Advent.
After Malachi penned his last Spirit-inspired word, God fell silent for 400 years. No visions. No prophetic words. No burning bushes or flakes of manna. Silence. Perhaps the Jews thought He had forgotten the promise of the long awaited Messiah. As they sweated and toiled in their daily routines under the watchful eye of an empire they despised, they waited. They wondered. Did they hope or had hope failed? We know that Simeon and Anna clung to hope. We know that Zechariah continued to serve in the temple, waiting, watching, wondering. Then after 400 years as suddenly as God fell silent, He spoke into the darkness. He had been there all along orchestrating His perfect plan in His perfect timing. Advent reminds us of the ache of anticipation, the woe of waiting.
But how we wait matters. The wait isn’t a time of idle thumb twiddling. It’s an opportunity for soul-searching. Like the psalmist we can cry out, “Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Waiting can push us away or draw us closer. It can embitter us or it can empower us. We can choose grumbling or we can choose gratitude, but the choice is ours. When we wait on the voice of God to pierce the darkness in our own lives do we waste the wait or receive the revelation He is offering us as we draw closer in faith even when can’t see Him clearly?
And are we waiting with anticipation or are we mastering the art of distraction? We live in an era of distraction. It’s an art form. We can scroll our phones for hours and never reach the bottom of the page. We can binge watch every episode of every show ever produced. We can drown our drudgery in a deluge of distraction, or we can eagerly anticipate what’s next. We can tune out through distraction or we can tune in through anticipation. As I wait, I often find myself seeking the amusement of distraction, so I don’t have to do the hard work of dealing with the discomfort of discovery, of sorting through my own emotions. Distraction means we don’t have to face what needs changing in our own lives. We can put it off for another day. But waiting with anticipation turns our focus outward and upwards. We give our brokenness, our fears, our messes to God and with faith and hope we wait with the anticipation that He is at work, even when we can’t see it. We do our part to grow more like Christ as we eagerly await for Him to reveal Himself and watch with anticipation the work He is capable and faithful to do while we wait.
Advent means the in-between time doesn’t have to be unfruitful. If anything it reminds us that even in the silence, God is at work. Even in the mess, God is making miracles. Even when it seems all hope is lost, a baby’s cry pierces the silence and when He becomes a man He pierces our heart with His light and love, reminding us that we never have to lose hope again. Hope is ours and it is everlasting. Don’t waste the wait and anticipate don’t distract.