What Have You Been Waiting For?

I have recently been reading a book of Dietrick Bonhoeffer’s reflections on Advent and Christmas. Bonhoeffer waited in prison for 18 months before being tried and sentenced to death by Nazis without witnesses against him or a defense. So he knew something about waiting. He wrote that “[w]aiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.”

If Bonhoeffer thought people were impatient then, he wouldn’t believe what has happened to our society over the last 10 or 15 years. Technology has allowed us to accomplish more than ever before. But it has also changed the way we think and act. Twenty years ago I did not have a mobile telephone. If I had internet, it was dial up. When I went on vacation I actually took the week off. Now I can work from anywhere in the world. I check my email before breakfast. I often leave the newspaper in the driveway and I check the news on twitter. I am always trying to accomplish more. And when I accomplish more, I try to find ways to become even more efficient.

Advent is a celebration of waiting. In the third chapter of Genesis, God promised the serpent that Eve’s offspring would crush him. Later in Genesis, God told Abraham that through him all people would be blessed through his offspring. Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah all told of the coming of a king. Galations 4:4 says that that God sent his Son “when the fullness of time was come.” But it took thousands of years for the time to come. Millions of people spent their whole lives waiting.  

Bonhoeffer says that the only people who can wait are those who “carry restlessness around with them.” He says that if you are satisfied you can’t wait. I think he’s saying that you aren’t waiting unless you have something to wait for. With regard to Advent, he says that it 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. . .” So during Advent we celebrate the wait for first incarnation and we wait for the mystery and the greatness that is to come.  

The impatience and uneasiness that we live with every day should help us embrace the spiritual uneasiness of Advent. I am fortunate to be able to work with all types of people. Some are young and some are old. Some are in good health and some have debilitating illnesses. Some are rich and some are poor. I help people plan for new babies, new businesses, retirement, charities and the next generations of their families. We are all waiting for something.  We all carry restlessness around with us. We are restless because we have so many things to accomplish. We are restless because we don’t know what tomorrowholds. We are restless because we know that we are incomplete. We are restless because we sense something of the greatness that is to come. 

I hope you take the time over the next week to think about what you are waiting for.