Waiting. We do lots of it. Waiting in traffic jams and check-out lines. Waiting for pay day and summer holidays. Waiting for our first driver’s license and first job. Waiting for a child to be born and then to leave home. Waiting for doctor’s appointments and test results.
Sometimes waiting can be painful and exhausting. Think of the millions of refuges displaced from their homes. Waiting can also be sad and lonely. Think of residents of care homes, body life ebbing away, waiting to die.
It can help us in our waiting if we have a tangible, hopeful sign that our situation of suffering will change and that the future promises better things. In our Advent scriptures for Sunday, Dec. 14, the prophet Isaiah (61:1-4) sees the future and it is good—captives freed, brokenhearted healed, God’s new world coming. His vision would have given courage and hope to captive Israel. Many years later, John the Baptist appears (John 1:6-8), a sign that the awaited Messiah is coming. The crowds waiting for the Messiah were filled with excitement and hope.
This Advent season we await the birth of Jesus, God’s clearest and most concrete sign that a good future will one day come to earth.
Recently I visited a greenhouse full of Christmas poinsettas. The scene was bright and colorful, but also tinged with the sadness of knowing that those flowers will all be gone before Christmas. But there is hope, said the greenhouse owner. In a back room, out of sight, cyclamen flowers were already sprouting, and after Christmas will fill the empty greenhouse. Even though winter will just be starting, the cyclamen will be tangible,hopeful signs that spring will come.
Now we wait, with expectancy, for the coming of Jesus. And after Christmas, we will still be waiting, for the arrival of God’s new heaven and earth. But like those cyclamen, the coming of Jesus can give us hope, while we wait.