Dawn and dusk are drawing closer together each day as we gradually approach the winter equinox. The waning of the daylight hours, coupled with the return of our seasonal overcast skies, which some folks here call ‘Vancouver shade’, lends a certain shroud to life that fosters waiting, particularly a waiting in patience. Waiting is the most prominent stance for me at this time of year, this pre-Christmas time, which in the Christian liturgical calendar is called Advent. Advent is the liturgical season of waiting in hope and expectation.
But, for what am I waiting? Well, I am, of course, waiting for the illusive peace in our world, for economic justice to spread like wildfire, and for a return to respect for our natural world, a respect that would ground environmentally responsible actions. Who would not want these? These are realities that are slowly and sometimes painfully being made incarnate around our globe each and every day. Nelson Mandela, whose life we commemorated this week, is one example of a person who incarnated the values of peace and justice. Yes, despite much evidence to the contrary, there is a steady progress being when one looks at the issues of peace, justice and sustainability from the long arc of history.
However, when one looks at these matters from the immediate and the particular there is no doubt that there are many places in our word in which wars eclipse peace, where injustices grind people down, and where environmental devastation continues. Our times are full with both progress and decline, good and evil. Given this it is all the more important to remember the truth that all inclinations towards progress come through human love, compassion, and solidarity. This is the only truth worth paying attention to, the essential truth worth waiting for. All else is simply counterfeit.
If this is true, and I think it is, then the question of what am I waiting for becomes ‘who’ am I waiting for? The reason for this transition from what to who is simply because the actions I wish to see take place are dependent upon humans, dependent upon a ‘who’. For me then, this time of Advent, this time of preparing for Christmas, is more about waiting for a who to come than for a what to arrive. This is the precious insight of the Christian story of the incarnation, the birth of God as a poor, vulnerable child. In our time this ‘who’ is all-inclusive, for the spark of the divine Who resides in each of us. Advent waiting then is a waiting for the continual birth of the other(s) and the Other who shall continue to bring peace, justice and sustainability into our world.
As these days tumble together and in the midst of the excitement and anticipation of Christmas I find myself stopping for longer periods to listen for the approaching footsteps of the ‘Other’ in my small corner of the world. I find myself preparing room to welcome others into my world so as to be able to celebrate the gifts of progress in the midst of turmoil. This waiting, sometimes throughout charcoal coloured days of Vancouver, helps fuel my expectation. And in this expectation is found the seed of hope.