Not quite a common theme for this season of Epiphany. The longing of Advent has since given way to the feasting of Christmas, that great turning point of redemptive history.
And yet, on the macroscopic level, waiting is the order of business for this time, these centuries between Christ's first Advent, the one celebrated every December, and the second, the one we are not yet able to celebrate because it is not yet here.
I came across two articles in my reading this week, this first full week after the Epiphany, on that theme, which I will highlight here along with my reflections after reading.
The first, by Jeff Strong for Christianity Today, focuses on an often-overlooked fact of the Christmas story (I confess I had never given it much thought), the fact that the shepherds and the Magi both returned, as far as we know, to the same lives they had had before. The next night the shepherds were back out with their sheep, and the Magi eventually made it back to their homeland and continued their scholarly pursuits. A little anticlimactic, when one actually considers that point.
And yet, it fits. After gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, a local congregation returns to their homes, and the next day to their places of work and study. But were the shepherds and Magi any different when they returned? Are we any different when we return from our weekly churchgoing?
The second article is more specifically about waiting. Amber Haines writes for The High Calling about a time in her life when she was very impatient for God to fulfill the promise to make all things new. But without waiting, without unmet desires, what use would there be for hope?
Are there times when we go through the motions of going to church and more often than not find ourselves bored with waiting for God to act? Or are we allowing this time of waiting, while in the midst of the everyday between Sunday and Sunday, between the first and second advents, to transform us?
Most people, being human, hate waiting. I hate waiting in traffic, in line, for the commercial break to end, for a response to that "urgent" email or text message I sent just thirty seconds ago, or for the brainwave that will allow me to finish this sentence. But I know that God is never behind schedule. If God has yet to act, it is because it is not yet time.
"It takes courage to return in a culture that continually invites us to move on," Strong writes. "We believe that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith," Haines writes, "and waiting becomes an active engagement with hope at its core."
We cry, "Come, Lord Jesus," and rightfully so. But sometimes, the response is, "be still and know that I am God."