We are midway through the season running up to Christmas, which is called Advent. One of its key themes is the importance for us to see the possibilities that waiting might bring or us.
I overheard a child in Tesco this week say to her brother, “I can’t wait for Christmas”. In her eyes, I glimpsed how children are caught up in the excitement of waiting. The experience of waiting is a common one and it shapes the rhythm of all our lives. We wait for trains, for the postman, or for pay day.
When I think of waiting, my own mind most immediately goes to the hospital as a place of waiting. Patients waiting at the start of the day for a bath, waiting for the doctor to come, for the bed to be made. They wait for the results of tests, for surgery, for the day of discharge or perhaps, they even wait for their death.
Experiences of waiting can lead to what we might call enlarged perceptions. Waiting might just help us to see things differently. In waiting, instances of enduring, because they are intimate, are vexingly uncomfortable. We fidget, we pace, we complain, we consult our watches.
Although the experience of waiting is a common human experience – we live in a world where we want or create a culture within which waiting is undesirable. This shapes our financial culture. Do you remember the advert with the first credit card: “Access takes the waiting out of wanting”? At regular intervals, the bank sends me offers for the loan of money with suggestions how to spend it. It is a sharp contrast to my grandmother telling me before I went to university that I should never buy anything until I had saved up enough money to pay for it. We live in a world where we are promised that we can have what we want and have it now – and more than that, that we can have now what we do not want or need.
Waiting has its own value and dignity. Advent is the invitation to wait with hope. We live in a time when thoughts of the future may fill people with fear – and not with hope and joy. We must learn to hope, to rest, even to pray and to wait.
So think about waiting this week. Spare a thought for those who wait anxiously or are in need. May these days running up to Christmas be for us a time when we open to see living in a different light and in a deeper trust in hope and love.
First published by the Salisbury Journal 14th December 2017