The Waiting is Over

I’ve never got on terribly well in waiting rooms - doctors, dentists, or airports. Actually waiting in general and for anything is not my gift! So you can imagine how manic I was as a young boy whenever Christmas came around!!

Peter Baker | 23:00, Sunday, 19 December 2010

I once insisted that my parents allowed me to take one of my presents, a rugby ball, to bed on Christmas Eve! They knew I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep otherwise. Tomorrow always seems like a far distant galaxy to a six year old. 

Yet waiting is a feature not just of life, but of a Christian understanding of reality. And Advent is the calendar time above all when we are called upon to wait for God. 

The Meeting Place

I make a number of visits to London each year and enjoy playing train monopoly on the underground, jumping on and off at stations like Paddington, Liverpool Street and St. Pancras. That stop is by far my favourite, for two reasons. 

First there is the Meeting Place. It’s a large bronze sculpture of two people locked in an embrace beneath the giant station clock, oblivious to everyone else, caught in a moment of time, which they want to last for ever. The waiting for them is over, or maybe the waiting is about to begin, as one or the other has to board a train and go. The ambiguity adds to the poignancy.  

But about 50 feet a way is another sculpture, this one of the former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman. He was a bit of a train spotter himself! His poem, Christmas, begins

“The bells of waiting Advent ring…” and continues; 

Sir John Betjeman

And is it true.
This most tremendous tale of all,

Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,

A Baby in an ox's stall?

The Maker of the stars and sea

Become a Child on earth for me?
 

That is the central question of Advent – is it God we are waiting for to come among us in the infant form of a vulnerable human life? And the unequivocal answer of the Gospel is yes! “The word was made flesh and lived among us.” The waiting is over. 

And yet it’s not. There is more to come. For Jesus lived, died, rose again and promised to return. That’s what we wait for now, in these times between two worlds. We are the visited planet, and yet we are the waiting planet, waiting for God to finish in Christ what he started, to bring in the Kingdom finally and for ever. Then truly the waiting will be over. But even now, we wait in hope. God came among us first time around, so He will come again. 

RS Thomas, one of the great Welsh poets and himself a clergyman, reflected on the tension and meaning built into this exercise of waiting. His poem, Kneeling, captures it so well;

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
The Meaning is in the WaitingOf spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

So don’t rush to the next appointment, don’t hurry your life away; look for the meaning in the waiting and believe that the waiting is worth it. And know that one day it will be over for ever.  

May God bless you this Christmas in the waiting rooms of your life. God is with you in them. Immanuel. 

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