In the 56 years since Emmanuel was first planted as a church community, technology and commerce has sped up our lives exponentially. For example, as soon as we think of the perfect present for someone on our list, we can grab our phones, look it up on Amazon, purchase with one click and Santa’s Elves will deliver it within 24 hours–all without leaving our chair. We can send our Christmas letters out by email instantaneously and share our Christmas morning photos with all our friends before the last present is opened. Long processes that we used to live with, like photo developing and snail mail delivery, have been conveniently erased from many of the tasks we undertake. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does have consequences. One of those consequences is that we are less experienced with anticipation and patient waiting than we once were.
Well, anticipation and patient waiting are what Advent is all about. Christ didn’t just show up on Christmas morning instantaneously as soon as the people had need of him. No, God’s people waited for generations for Emmanuel to come and ransom them from sin and death. Now we are called upon to wait as well. God knows that this is a challenge for us in the world we inhabit. And it’s not just a challenge because we are used to getting what we want as soon as we realize we want it. It’s also a challenge because we have forgotten why we should wait in the first place. What is the benefit of waiting? If there is any season in the church calendar we have lost touch with, it is the long, slow, season of Advent.
For me, the value of waiting becomes evident as soon as I give up the idea that I will get what I want as soon as I want it. When I realize that I have to wait for what I want, the power of wanting and its hold on me is loosened somewhat. When this happens, the scales fall from my eyes and I see that getting what I want often keeps me from receiving what I need. As we have been hearing in Mark’s Gospel over the past few weeks, the disciples thought they wanted the Messiah to be a warrior who would conquer Israel’ senemies by force. Had they gotten what they wanted you can just imagine all that they (and we) would have been denied?
Interim ministry is also a time of patient waiting and anticipation. It is like the Advent season in the life a church. So often, when a pastor leaves or retires there is a rush of anxiety that pushes a congregation to move quickly through the interim period, or to skip it all together. The collective assumption becomes “we know what we want…so why wait to get it?” You, as the members of this church, may indeed know exactly what you want for the church. But do you know what the church needs? I think, at this moment, only God knows what Emmanuel needs.
How wonderful that we have this time for God to reveal it to us!
Happy Waiting, Pastor Jen