I've been waiting a lot lately. Waiting for the internet to get back up to speed so I can get some emails answered. Waiting for the rains to come to Iringa so everything will turn green. Waiting for my house in Pennsylvania to finally be sold so I can get that stress off my mind.
Waiting is a way of life here in Tanzania - in most of Africa, really. Things don't always happen on schedule as they do in America, and this laissez-faire attitude often takes a lot of getting used to for those who come to visit or live here. For myself, this slower, more relaxed pace of life suits me just fine. It has allowed me the luxury of time to develop a deeper appreciation of the meaning of Advent and to ponder the significance of spending four weeks anticipating the birth of our Savior. We know Jesus is coming, after all. What is the point of Advent? What are we waiting for?
As a labor and delivery nurse and midwife of over 30 years, I know about waiting for babies to come. Modern American obstetrics (and the American propensity for impatience) to the contrary, I firmly believe that waiting until the body knows it is time to deliver the baby is almost always the best course of action. We have ample evidence to prove that the longer baby stays in the womb the better its brain development will be and the better the birth outcome will be - if only we can wait for the right time.
Waiting can be, at the very least, boring, even difficult or psychologically painful at times. It can make us feel hopeless. Most of us are not good at waiting; we tend to think of it as an unproductive waste of time. Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) even wrote about waiting in his book, Oh, The Places You'll Go!, where he described waiting as "a most useless place."
But waiting doesn't have to be unproductive. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest and author, says that waiting is NOT doing nothing; it is, rather, a vital, engaged, active stance that we can take in our life of faith, a matter of responding to God in the present and nurturing the moment. It takes a willingness to stay where we are and live out the situation to the fullest in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Nouwen says that waiting is essential to our spiritual lives.
In many languages the verb "to wait" also means "to hope." The Old Testament is full of verses telling us to "Wait on the Lord," and full of stories of people that did just that. The Israelites, the Magi, Simeon and Anna - they all waited for the coming of the promised messiah, full of conviction that God's deliverance would arrive at the right time. Their waiting was not in vain. Neither is ours.
As we wait these last few days of Advent and eagerly anticipate Christmas and the birth of the baby Jesus, we do not wait without hope. In God's good time - at the right time - God will send the Promised One, the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World.
Blessed Advent and Christmas to you all,
Deacon April Trout
BKB Long-Term Program Coordinator