Here's a reflection I gave at yesterday's chapel service at the Presbyterian Center.
The Scripture passage is James 5:7-10. Click here to read it.
I am ok with waiting. I’ll wait for good food. I’ll wait for the homemade limoncello to be ready. I’ll wait for the weather to change.
At the same time, I hate waiting. How long do we have to wait until this country comes up with a real answer to homelessness? How long do we have to wait until violence against women is no longer a fact of life? This waiting is, honestly, ridiculous. It’s all just so eschatological.
Wait, be patient, says the author of James, presumably to those experiencing misery at the time of this writing. Be patient until the coming of the Lord (God is definitely coming back, by the way, the people are assured). This passage, out of context, reminds me of the southern clergy who wrote to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, telling him that he and his colleagues just needed to be patient. Wait a little. This reminds me of the strategy of certain organizations working to eliminate G6.0106b, telling openly gay and lesbian candidates for ministry to wait. Be patient with the church. This reminds me of President Obama telling young undocumented immigrants to be patient, even as they risk arrest and deportation in order to remind him of the urgent need for immigration reform. Be patient. I’m trying to work with Congress.
This is a time of year when it seems like all we talk about is waiting. It was agony as a kid, wanting to tear into the gifts showered on me by overindulgent grandparents. What made this waiting ok for me was the lovely gift of the darkness. We in the U.S. often associate darkness with bad things. You know, racism. Or being surrounded by the unknown. We have plenty of narratives about things that jump out from the dark: thieves, murderers, aliens, zombies, spiders, demons.
But as a child, I loved being the first person up every morning in Advent. I loved going downstairs in the dark, plugging in the lights of the Christmas tree, and lying down underneath them, breathing in the scent of the tree, pagan symbol that it may be. The darkness was beautiful. For the farmer, the darkness is good. Seeds need a dark place to be nurtured until they put out shoots.
Advent is that space where good things are nurtured. We are waiting for a mini-version of the promise to which the author of James refers.
Be patient now. We’ll get through this Advent/Christmas season. Churches will start returning our calls again. We can escape horrible cheesy liturgically incorrect music everywhere we go.
And wait. There is so much wrong in the world, inside these walls, in our families, in our cities. While we wait for it to change, we strengthen our hearts. We do not grumble against each other. And we take our example from the prophets, who worked for change while they waited, day after day after day.