What are we waiting for? For many, this is season of Advent seems a bit pointless. Waiting for what? Santa Claus? The New Year? The end to the onslaught of incentives to buy or party our way to a better life? Surely the church isn’t suggesting that we keep waiting for a Savior with magic wand in hand to swoop down and fix everything that’s wrong with the world. Or is it?
For 2000 years, the followers of Jesus Christ have been waiting for him to return. For umpteen additional centuries, the people of God have been waiting and watching for God’s return with “an outstretched arm and a mighty hand” to set things right, to usher in the time of shalom – a time of absolute righteousness and complete wholeness. So what’s taking God so long? From year to year, things seem to go from bad to worse. The more intentional we are about paying attention to and addressing the great needs in our world, the more those great needs seem to rise up before us. How many more Habitat houses do we have to build? How many more families will need Family Promise? How many more children will have to live in the Crisis Nursery homes? How many more elderly will live and die alone? With the psalmist, we cry: How long, O Lord?
The Good News for us as we wait is also hard news: God isn’t a “quick fix” God, dashing to and fro putting out fires here and there. Our God is a creator – deeply interested in “tikkun olam” – the eternal work of creation, perfecting here, redesigning there, applying new techniques, making use of new materials to enhance the vision of the divine artist. That vision is revealed to us throughout scripture: lions lying down with lambs, children having plenty to eat, widows embraced with love and support by their community, those in need finding their needs met by the generosity of their neighbors.
In our heads, we know this to be true, yet our hearts still lament: How long? In the midst of our cries, the whisper of the Creator’s Spirit cuts through: Only the Creator knows when creation is ready. Only the Artist knows when the work of art is complete. Until that time, we can be useful as tools in the artist’s hands, bringing the special skills, the energy, the life we have been given by God our Creator. And we can wait together, telling each other what we have seen and what we have heard, sharing the glimpses of hope and whispers of joy that remind us that brokenness is not the last word.