There were five of us in the lift. Mum, Dad, Grandad, and two children under five. The place we were staying was on the 29th floor. We passed floor 28 and then the lift stopped. We pressed the button but nothing happened. So we felt we had little option but to push the emergency bell. The man on the other end didn’t speak much English – we were in Hong Kong – and we certainly had no Mandarin. However, he knew enough to explain it would take about half an hour for the mechanic to get to us. All we could do was wait.
We all reacted differently: fearful; anxious; impatient; annoyed; quiet; distracting ourselves by focussing on the needs of the children. But the only voice we heard for that long wait was our new friend on the other end of the line occasionally saying “Sir, he’s coming.”
For Christians Advent is the time of waiting, but we wait with the sound of scriptural voices announcing that “He’s coming”: Christ who comes at Christmas, for he came to Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago; Christ who comes to us today if we are prepared to make room for him in our hearts and lives; Christ who comes again at our end time. And the traditional prayer – the Advent collect – which we say every day in Advent challenges us “to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life.”
All life involves us in times of waiting: the traffic jam; the doctor’s surgery or the hospital waiting room; the person who arrives late; that train or bus which is delayed. These little “waitings” force us to participate in the emotions of those whose lives are much more acute waiting experiences: the refugee who waits in a camp for the smallest signs of hope; the unemployed who waits for a reply to yet another application; the loved one who waits at the hospital bed-side hoping they may improve; the prisoner who serves their sentence waiting for a release date to arrive.
What do our little “waitings” teach us about the life experiences of others who we might find it easier to ignore? Can our little “waitings” help us to prepare better for what is coming? Have you ever tried silently praying when you are forced to wait? Have a really fruitful Advent!