This time of year can be a hard time to wait and be patient.
For some the time of presents and celebrative music and joyous reunions make us giddy with anticipation. The days can’t pass fast enough until these times are upon us. And sometimes they pass all too quickly and we need to wait until the next occasion with all the joys and the celebrations that come with.
For some the holidays loom in a much more menacing way—hard economic times, insufficient wages, palpable empty places at the table or hard memories from tough holidays gone by. The days can’t pass fast enough until we are through these tough times. And then we will have a reprieve at least until the next occasion with its challenges and all of the expectations that come with.
For most of us we are in some hybrid place between these two extremes. We find ourselves waiting—sometimes joyfully, sometimes dreadfully—through these days of Advent. Our assigned epistle lesson for this coming second Sunday of Advent reminds us that God waits too.
8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
Have you ever had to wait on God? Perhaps you are seeking guidance about an opportunity or a perceived calling. Perhaps you are waiting to hear back on some lab results and the efficacy of your prayers for healing. Perhaps you are waiting for that baby to come. Or for your baby to come back home from deployment. Or for when you can leave this earth and go and be reunited with your baby. But instead of the instant gratification type of response we have been trained to expect in this world there is the need to wait. Perhaps God has a purpose in the waiting. Perhaps the waiting has little to do with God’s plans or God’s timing. Waiting can be a trial.
But Peter redirects us like a parent to a restless child—“Instead of pacing and complaining why don’t you…?” Instead of fixating on how slow or non-responsive we perceive God to be why don’t we do something? Why don’t we bide our time by striving to be at peace, by striving to be without spot or blemish? In order to do this with God we must return again and again to God’s work on the cross which was attached to us in baptism. Through Jesus we are reconciled to God and made at peace. Through Jesus we are made pure and clean. In order to do this with neighbors we must grow, with God’s help, in being peace-loving and forgiving and long-suffering and gracious with others. We must grow, with God’s help, in loving our neighbors as we ourselves would be loved. As we grow in this way the spots and blemishes that mar our community and blur our image of our neighbors fade.
As we wait, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so much so, we can grow in regarding God’s patience with us and our world as salvation—as a healing and life-giving act. This is as Paul writes and as Peter emphasizes and as the church teaches and as we are called to live.
Christ has come. Christ will come again. Thanks be to God.
God, help us wait in faith knowing your patience is bringing salvation more fully into this world. Bring your new heaven and earth in your time to your glory. Amen.