We hate to wait.
But so much of life is about waiting.
Waiting is a lost art.
Advent begins today. The Christian year begins today. Happy new years! Advent, we begin the season of expectant waiting.
More like a child waiting on Christmas Eve than like waiting to renew our driver’s licenses at the DMV ( I think that would technically be purgatory…).
More like waiting for childbirth than being stuck in traffic.
It is like waiting for suffering to end, for healing or for death.
For a cure, for a miracle.
Waiting for a special meal to begin.
Or to see a friend who has been a long time absent.
Waiting for it to rain after everything has turned to dust.
Jesus gives us two little mini parables today about waiting.
Waiting for a fig tree to put forth its leaves. Waiting at the door for the return of the master that could be at any time. Learn from this lesson.
Waiting for summer, for things to turn green.
Waiting for homecoming, for the longtime absent to walk back through the door.
Learn from these. Learn to wait.
Mark is the oldest of the four Gospels. It was written during a time of turmoil, Israel was tearing itself apart, and all the might of the Roman Empire couldn’t keep the peace. In fact, it only made it worse. Life became unpredictable, unstable, unsure.
So the country was consumed by power, control, stockpiling wealth, drawing lines and choosing sides. Sounds familiar?
In walks Jesus, in walks the gospel, in walks the church. And their response to uncertainty? More of the same? More pointing the finger, more wagging of the head and raising of the voice? More of that?
No, it was something else, a different way of being in the world.
These parables of waiting are the response to a vision of creation falling apart, wearing out, running out of time, even stars die and fall from the sky, even the moon loses its shine.
Has your world ever fallen apart?
That is when it happens. Expect something, or rather someone.
The return of summer, the return of the one whose words outlive the heavens and the earth, whose word brings the world back together, life out of death, hope out of darkness, joy out of despair.
I’ve pretty much decided that Christians are weird. When things fall apart, we get expectant, we dramatically hope, never surrender, never despair. Because something is about to happen, and we don’t want to miss it.
This Advent waiting, it is as contrary as southern politicians and as stubborn as a bent nail.
When the world falls apart, wait for God to speak the word that makes all things new.
That is Advent. Waiting for summertime, for the world to turn green.
Because even at the grave we make our song, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
But there it is.
Be that word, that walks back in through the door, that puts forth leaves, that hopes beyond reason, that brings life back to the dead places.
The lesson of these parables? 1) The world falls apart. 2) God can be trusted to bring it back together. We call it resurrection.
Which means that when life gets uncertain and the rest of the world hunkers down into fear and hate and anger, we get busy singing, inviting, loving and building up, contrary and stubborn until Jesus walks back through the door.
So what are we waiting for?
Hurry up… and wait.