Waiting is hard.
Waiting for Christmas.
Waiting for time off work.
Waiting for lie-ins.
Waiting for the turkey to roast.
Waiting for family to arrive.
Waiting for your dad to wake up from his post-dinner nap on the sofa.
As I learn more about the Anglican Church calendar – doing my bit as a future vicar’s wife. I now know that we are currently in Advent – a time of waiting, a time of preparation. A time of expectant waiting for Jesus, of waiting for the baby in a manger, of waiting for God to present himself in human form.
December should have been a time of waiting for me.
A time of waiting for a baby.
Our daughter was due on the 31st December. We should have been waiting for her. Preparing for her arrival. But we’re not. My tummy isn’t stretched. Our spare room doesn’t have a cot. My hospital bag isn’t packed. As I wait this Advent, there’s only one heart beating inside me instead of two.
We’re not waiting for a baby any more.
I normally try to forget the dates of when our babies were due. I fear the weight of what might have been would become too great. But this date – New Year’s Eve, is not so easy to forget. This baby is not so easy to forget either, we knew more about her than any of her siblings. We knew she was a girl, we knew when she died, we knew she was severely disabled. The knowing makes it more real, there is evidence, there are papers in the hospital that testify to her existence, her heartbeat, her size, her genetics.
This Advent the doors on my advent calendar are building up to the grand reveal of that celebrated image of a baby in a manger, of Mary watching her new-born son as he sleeps, full of the glow of motherhood. The angels surrounding them, shepherds, and wise men bowing at the small wooden manger filled with straw that holds a sleeping baby, unable to speak, unable to even hold his head. Is this the God I am waiting for? A baby?
Our God, the Creator, omnipotent, arrived on earth through the miracle of conception. He subjected himself to the fragility of life growing and developing within the womb. He submitted to weakness as his mother brought him into this world, her breath held until she felt his, until she heard the cries of life, lungs filling with air, heart beating. Advent is about remembering, celebrating that God made himself weak, he accepted humanity to connect with us.
But Jesus did not remain a baby.
He grew. He healed. He taught. He cared. He cried. He laughed. He ate. He drank. He had friends. He fed others. He went fishing. He slept. He forgave. He challenged. He suffered. He died. He rose again.
The celebration of Christmas is not about waiting for a baby.
As I think about waiting I am challenged to think about what or who I worship in the waiting. Can I dare even challenge myself to think of that which I long for with the greatest intensity being that which I also worship? Am I waiting for a baby – my baby? Am I waiting for the baby Jesus? Am I waiting for Jesus the healer? Saviour? Redeemer?
The pain of waiting is often forgotten when we receive the good thing we have waited for. The nine month wait for a baby is soon lost when a bloated tummy is replaced by a babe in arms. But, unfortunately we don’t always receive what we wait for, and sometimes we just don’t know when the waiting will be over. We wait now in advent yes, to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus, but also to remember the waiting room we are still in as we wait for Jesus to return. Advent is also about remembering that Jesus will come again, He has promised to return. But this doesn’t mean we’re stuck in a waiting room with soft jazz and trashy magazines from the 90’s. Waiting can be hard, but we are called to live as we wait, to engage in the waiting rather than sit passively for our number to be called.
I never thought I’d have anything in common with Mary as she celebrated the news of her pregnancy. But her response challenges me. She didn’t allow her present situation to affect her response to the news that, as an unmarried teenager she had become pregnant. Instead, she celebrated because she lived in the promises of God’s faithfulness. Her identity was not found in how society saw her, it was rooted in God’s promises – in which she rejoiced. Mary was also in the waiting room, but she chose to live in the reality of the full and final picture of the kingdom of God, instead of losing herself in waiting for the birth of the baby she had been promised.
I’m not waiting for a baby this advent. Not the baby Jesus, and not baby Lowrie. As this single heartbeat thumps through my body, pumping blood and life into me I wait for Jesus the healer, the teacher, the one who loves with tears, the Saviour, the Redeemer.
Come Lord Jesus.