John 1: 1-5, 14 (NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Revelation 22: 20 (NKJV)
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Waiting is a many splendored thing.
In some arenas, waiting might be equated with taking time for preparation. “Don’t go off half-cocked!” as my Daddy used to say. Or, Mama’s favorite: “Your mouth is moving, but your mind is not in gear - don’t say another word till you’ve thought it through.” In this context, waiting is seen as a good thing, a positive practice that builds both patience and readiness. Preachers everywhere extol the virtues of this kind of “active waiting” at least twice a year, every year, during the seasons of Advent and Lent, when we’re supposed to be preparing ourselves to celebrate the high holy days of Christmas and Easter. The Bible expounds upon the value of “waiting on the Lord” in more places than I can count. (If you enjoy word searches, just go to your preferred online Bible, enter the term “waiting” or “wait on the Lord” and get ready for a multitude of results.) So, waiting can be a mark of wisdom and maturity...but not always.
Sometimes, waiting is not wise at all; there are times when waiting is little more than an exercise in futility. “Time and tide wait for no man” wrote Geoffrey Chaucer. “Strike while the iron is hot!” urges a piece of popular wisdom that harkens back to the blacksmiths of the 1500’s. “Opportunity knocks but once!” warns a proverb that dates to the 8th century AD. In this context, waiting is seen as a sort of foot-dragging, lolly-gagging reluctance to take action when action is what’s needed, a kind of fear-based avoidance that helps no one and engenders only regret. As the old hymn proclaims “If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.” (“Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” - The United Methodist Hymnal, #340) There are things you simply can’t get ready for by waiting, as Lemony Snicket fans everywhere know. (“Are you ready?” Klaus finally asked. “No,” Sunny answered. “Me neither,” said Violet, “but if we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives. Let’s go.” - The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #6) Or, as Ananias stuck it to Paul, “And now, what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, calling on His name!” (Acts 22:16) Good old Ananias. Sometimes, the only question worth asking is “What are you waiting for?”
Truth be told, the last 9 months have involved more waiting than most of us can stomach. It’s been like one great big fat Lent that never reaches Easter, like a land “where it is always winter, but never Christmas.” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) Even with the arrival of vaccines, the waiting isn’t over; as the epidemiologists have been saying all along, it’s still looking like late 2021 or even early 2022 before we can heave a sigh of relief and “get back to normal” - whatever normal might be at that point. So, where is God in all this mess? What on earth is God up to here? The good news: whatever else God may or may not be up to, the one thing God’s not doing is sitting around waiting. Oh, no; God has taken action. When I grow weary of the state of this world, when further waiting seems more than I can stand, I call to mind the words of Madeleine L’Engle in her Christmas poem, “First Coming.”
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was great and deep.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait
til hearts were pure. He came in joy
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his light would not go out.
He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh,
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs in joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly! Help us not to wait, but to raise our voices in your praise this very moment, now. Amen.
Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood