From Very Reverend Rebecca Kello, Christ Episcopal Church, Bowling Green, Ky:
“One aspect about Advent that has always been striking to me is the concept of waiting.
“In Advent we wait in the darkness, we wait in anticipation and sometimes even in fear. We wait patiently and sometimes we wait in frustration. We wait so much that it can seem like all that we are asked to do during this season is to wait for the Christ child to be born and then we will be able to celebrate.
“In this daily reader however, Henri Nouwen’s essay, “Waiting for God” offers a challenging take on what it might mean to wait, not in a passive way, but to wait actively: A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are.
“Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her. Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were very present to the moment. That is why they could hear the angel. They were alert, attentive to the voice that spoke to them and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. Something is happening to you.
“‘Pay attention.’ I don’t know about you, but I am always amused by how often angels come, particularly during Advent, and bring a message that something is happening and always precede it with, ‘Don’t be afraid!” What Nouwen invites us to here as we enter this season of Advent is a time of active waiting; he invites us to a time of waiting that finds its depth and grounding in the fact that powerful things happen when it seems that nothing is actually happening at all.
“This is the season of waiting, where we wait actively for the Christ child. It’s the season of darkness and light dancing together, and yet even in times when the darkness feels like it is consuming, we wait; we wait in hope. It’s the season where we listen for the angel’s plea, as Nouwen bids us, “Don’t be afraid. Something is happening to you. Pay attention.”