Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 11:1: Isalah 64:4,7
Striking the right chord
Advent is about anticipation, about waiting. How can there be anything good about waiting? Think of the hours we spend each month waiting at traffic lights or in supermarket checkout lines or worse on hold with some company representative who continues assuring you that your call is important to them. There is no redeeming quality to the act of waiting. Yet maybe we should rethink that. Columnist Tom Friedman’s latest book is “Thank you for being late” (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2016). Friedman claims that we are living in an accelerating world. And he is right. Our brains are being rewired as we speak because of all the the news gadgets and games that are now available. The climate is also changing at an ever rapid rate. So when Friedman is sitting at a table waiting to meet some person he wants to interview somewhere in the world and that person is late, Friedman may not pull out his computer to do work, because that person could show up anytime. But his minds starts working and he starts reflecting and before you know it there is all this new insight he would otherwise not have.
John Cleese, the comedic actor, did a video once on creativity and he claims that creativity is at its most optimal the longer you wait. His advice when it comes to creativity is: procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate. I have taken that to heart. I try not to write down a paragraph on my sermon until mid-day on Friday. The text needs to ferment until then. So already there are two reasons why waiting can be good. But I am not done. It is good to draft an email you write on the spur and in the emotion of the moment and then revisit it a day later after letting sit overnight. But let’s face it, we do not enjoy the waiting. We want to get it over with; move on the the next thing, even though that next thing is not as meaningful. It took me almost ten years to write my second dissertation because I was working full-time. It took me seven years to write a novel for the same reason, but maybe I should have waited another seven. The last article I wrote took me five years. Without doubt you have examples about times when waiting turned out to be a good thing.
Friends, Chelsea, with the help of Ben, is doing an Advent hymn series. It starts at 9.30 for three Sundays and continues into the worship service as you have seen. They are going to the hymns and while they are enjoying the melody, they are considering the words and where they come from. Today’s hymn is “O come, O come, Emmanuel” which means “God with us” in Hebrew. It is a hymn of anticipation, of waiting, waiting for the redeemer. It is the quintessential Advent hymns as Advent is the season and the discipline of waiting. Now does that hymn strike the right chord for advent as the season of waiting or will next week’s hymn or the one the week after? Which one will get it just right? We could ask the same question for the verses for today, all of which from the book of Isaiah (although, as we have seen they are not all from the same period), Does the Emmanuel passage on the cover of the bulletin get it just right or does the reference to the family tree of David as the origin of Emmanuel or does the hope of chapter 64 do the trick. Friends, how do we strike the right chord in waiting during this season? Maybe this is for us to figure out. Perhaps we should say today to Jesus: “thank you for being late, thank you for giving us time to figure out what our attitude and focus should be.” In the end all the passages matter. One provides the gravitas, the importance of the moment: God with us in Christ, the second grounds the coming of the Christ in history, the third tells us that despite the hardship of human life there is God. But how they fit into our lives, is something each of us needs to do during this time of Advent. So I advise you tor return to these passages in the next three weeks or so.
Friends, consider your lives and all the good things are people you had to wait for. Consider this congregation too and how long it took for changes to happen and how things in the church never happen
suddenly or in spurts. In the moment it may seem that we just go through the seasons and the cycles, but over time when we review the highs and the lows, we can see an upward curve to a new and hopeful way of being the Church. May God make us patient and bless our journey.