Friday, November 25, 2005

Advent: Waiting in Fear or Hope

In "Watch for the Light", Henri Nouwen talks about waiting for God. He observes that most people think waiting is a waste of time. Or worse, it's a time filled with fear as they dread what might happen to them. It's the fear in waiting that often causes people to strike out in anger or even violence trying to control their situation - stifling what they fear may happen at the end of their waiting.

But Nouwen notes that in the pre-birth stories of Jesus, everyone is waiting - not in fear but in hope. They are content to let God's will be revealed in his timing. Nouwen says that for the faithful, waiting is active. They believe that God is doing something in their heart; correcting them, directing them, maturing them - even if nothing is happening on the outside. And therefore the waiting of the faithful is open-ended - they never know all that God will do in a time of waiting. They have no preconceived ideas.

Close-ended waiting is when you think you know what the outcome of your waiting should be. You are just passing the time until you get what you want/expect. In a sense, close-ended waiting is a way of controlling your future. You wait until you get what you want. Open-ended waiting means that you have let go of your agenda and are willing to receive whatever it is that God has for you. You have relinquished your control. You will not "make something happen". You have chosen not to let your fear of the future intimidate others in order to manipulate the outcome.

Jesus' family (Elizabeth, Mary, etc.) waited as a community for the hope of the Messiah through them. According to Nouwen, their waiting was a model for how the church should wait for his coming. In the midst of a chaotic world, we wait patiently, encouraging each other, reminding one another of what is true - open to whatever it is that God wants to go both without and within.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Reflections on Christmas (Advent)

A friend gave me a devotional book last year that I've been saving for November. It's called, "Watch for the Light"...reading for Advent and Christmas. I thought I'd pass along some thoughts to you as I read through this over the coming days.

In "Action in Waiting" by Christoph Blumhardt, he challenges us to open ourselves to receiving Jesus. That's what Advent is about...preparing for his coming. But he's not talking about getting out the decorations and buying presents. He's talking about how we need to be alert to hear what God is saying to us when he speaks. So, he's broadening the idea of Advent to our entire life. Will we receive God's word - even his correction - when it comes?

He gives an example by saying that the cook learns to cook well and the farmer learns to farm well (today he might say the computer analyst learns to analyze well). But suppose that God comes to you and says, "Listen, don't simply cook as the world cooks or farm as the world farms. Stop and think how to do things in a way as to please ME!"

Then he says, "Maybe you will say, 'What do you mean? That's the way I learned it and that's how everybody else does it'. True, everybody does it that way; but you do not need to. Those intent on Christ coming into their lives have to bring a different way to their lives."

It's a subtle thing...doing things well versus doing things as to please God. But to those that want to receive Jesus' coming, it's an important distinction. Blumhardt challenges us to humble our hearts in order to hear God speaking softly to us.