By Bishop Ann Svennungsen
We’re not always good at waiting. Stopped at a red light or standing behind several others in the checkout line, we become antsy, impatient.
So, when Advent calls us into the spiritual practice of waiting – prayerful, expectant waiting – we’re not sure we like the invitation. Last year, however, I was given an experience that blessed me with a new appreciation of waiting as a gift – as grace.
EIGHT MONTHS AFTER our son, John Amos, had died, I gathered with the other bishops for our January meeting. When we shared in the closing worship, I couldn’t stop weeping. It seemed we were always singing about death: the feast of the lamb who was slain; I believe in Jesus Christ, who was crucified, died, and was buried; for on this day Christ overcame death and the grave; so we join with the hosts of heaven.
I was tired of death. Tired of seeing more death than life. Is my son really there with the host of heaven – gathered around the communion table? Where’s the proof? Why can’t I see something, feel something?
Worship ended and I sat alone, my face in the hands. Soon I felt a hand on my shoulder. Then I saw a two or three bishops standing near, some also weeping. I whispered to one, “Why can’t I feel my son’s presence with me at the table? It is so hard to believe.” She replied, with all the love she had, “Wait. Just wait.”
“Wait. Just wait.”
It was just the word of hope I needed. It didn’t deny my feelings – didn’t gloss over my pain. But it offered a glimpse, a reassurance that God will provide. Wait. And she was right. In the waiting, God has gently, steadfastly, lovingly renewed my faith, tended my broken heart, and given surprising glimpses of the host of heaven present even with us here on earth.
Perhaps, that is one way to imagine our Advent waiting:
Yet I believe beyond believing
That life can spring from death,
That growth can flower from our grieving,
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.
O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!