Advent is the most difficult season of the year for me.
It is dark and cold and gloomy and all about waiting.
I don’t wait well.
Those who work in retail don’t have to wait. Christmas starts in October or September these days. But in the church we wait. We wait for the days to get shorter and the nights longer. We wait for the cold to turn the world around us gray and brown. We wait to celebrate once again the presence (rather than presents) of God in our midst.
So in Advent, we wait. And God, according to the prophet Isaiah, “acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (64:4).
But Isaiah shares this hopeful thought in the midst of a heartfelt lament. The prophet expresses the frustration of his people. They’ve been in exile and are finally returning home. They expect everything to be as it was- but it never is, is it?
In the disappointments surrounding them they have lost faith. They can’t find God.
God, who acted to create the world.
God, who promised to make a great nation from Abraham and Sara.
God, who led the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.
God, who led them to the Promised Land.
God, who acted in fire and in water and in wind.
God, who spoke in clouds and burning bushes.
God, who can do anything and fix everything.
Where is this God now, when we really need him?
God had been powerful and present and real over and over again in history. Scripture is full of story after story of God’s presence in the lives of people, God’s power performing miracles, God’s existence making a difference in the world.
Isaiah said- O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
God, are you there? We are stressed out down here. We need you and we need you now. This is not a good time to disappear God. Our patience is wearing thin and our anxiety is growing intense. We want results – and we want them now!
The waiting room is like that at the hospital.
The marriage counseling office is like that.
The parlor at the funeral home.
The cell of the jail.
The chair outside the principal’s office is like that.
So is the chair beside the deathbed.
If only God would come down and replace our despair with hope, change our fear to anticipation, move us from cynicism to faith. Come on God where are you? Could you come out of retirement please? Have you left the building? Have you left the world? Have you left us? Have you left me?
Surely, some of you must know what that feels like?
Did you ever try to pray and feel nothing, see nothing, sense nothing?
Have you ever really needed God to act in your life and felt no response?
Ever searched desperately to feel God’s presence and leading and found nothing?
We beg and we plead but instead of the heavens being torn open- our hearts are torn apart and God’s promises remain just out of our reach.
This is the part of Advent I don’t like. This is the part of life I don’t like. Thank God it is just the beginning and not the final word. God will act on behalf of those who wait. Just wait.