"Not everyone can wait; neither the sated nor the satisfied nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them and people who look up with reverence to the greatest in the world. Thus Advent can be celebrated only by those whose souls give them no peace, who know that they are poor and incomplete, and who sense something of the greatness that is supposed to come, before which they can only bow in humble timidity, wait until he inclines himself toward us--the Holy One himself, God in the child in the manger, God is come; the Lord Jesus is coming, Christmas is coming. Rejoice, O Christendom! (from "Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger; Reflections on Advent and Christmas" published in 2010 complied and edited by Jana Riess)For what are you waiting? Or like so many "sated" and "satisfied," to use Bonhoeffer's terms, do we suffer from affluenza, the dis-ease of having more than we need. So goes the Christmas shopping dilemma. What do you get someone like me, who doesn't need anything? Our restlessness is not so much in what we don't have, but hanging onto what we have worked so hard, we misguidedly think, to get. We look not to God, but to our hard work and merit. The temptation of the powerful is to protect our blessings at all cost, and write the rules to keep and add to our advantage. Note, I include myself and most of my readers in this category.
As I write, the world is celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, who waited restlessly in prison for 27 years and beyond for Apartheid law in South Africa to end. In August of his year, we remembered the March on Washington, and Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream Speech." And just weeks ago we remembered the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago and the subsequent ground breaking civil rights and voters rights legislation. Some of us remember the night people climbed on the concrete wall called the Iron Curtain, which divided East and West Berlin, with sledge hammers in hand, and tore it down. Just a few years ago, Presbyterians celebrated 100 years of ordination for women as deacons, 75 years as elders, and 50 years as ministers of the word and sacrament. So much longing, waiting, and restlessness...sacrifice and pain were part of those trans formative experiences.
People today still wait restlessly without peace. Palestinians and Jews still wait for justice and peace. Dispersed Syrian refugees wait to get their lives back. Girls in Afghanistan still wait and wonder is it safe to get an education. Undocumented workers and their children wait for U.S immigration law reform. The uninsured wait for the Affordable Care Act and for the online exchanges to work. The unemployed wait for a job. The working poor wait for a living wage. The sick wait for a positive test result, for a new treatment. Soldiers wait to be sent home. Military families wait for their loved ones' safe return and embrace. LGBT persons wait for equal treatment under the law, and for their loving and committed relationships to be recognized and blessed by their community. We all should be restless over the impact of fossil fuel emissions on our climate and our planet. For what do you wait?
Sadly, we find ourselves so often caught at odds with these hopes..our financial portfolios, our social privileges, our life choices, and our faith commitments collide with and exasperate the hopes and dreams of so many! We find ourselves clinging to what we have known and trusted.
At Christmas God came close in Jesus, was incarnate, made flesh, human, born in a manger amid the powerless and transformed lives. "The mission of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is to serve God through sessions and congregations together: seeking God's leading, Sharing God's love, spreading God's light." In a new statement we claimed this fall, "The purpose of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is to challenge, encourage, and equip worshiping communities of faith to make disciples of Jesus Christ." Which begs the question, what is God waiting for this Advent? The gospels tell the story. God waits for us to continue the story. What are you waiting for?