It’s the middle of November. Advent is around the corner. During Advent, we don’t just get ready to celebrate Christmas. We also anticipate the return of Christ, ushering in the full and final reign of God. We remember that through God’s grace we are citizens of heaven. We seek to glorify God on earth while we wait for the day of the Lord.
But our citizenship[ is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 3:20
This year, I need Advent more than ever.
Priest and author the Rev. Christine McSpadden has wisdom to offer for the season. In her new book What Are You Waiting For?, she writes,
The season of Advent celebrates waiting, in ways simple and sublime, practical and theological. We wait for the birth of Jesus in a straw-filled barn in the Judean backwater of Bethlehem. We wait for the consummation of the cosmos in the final coming of God’s kingdom. We wait for the feast of Christmas and the flesh-and-blood reminder that God sent his beloved Son into the world so that we mortals might have new life and that our future lies open to possibilities beyond what we can ask or imagine.
We rarely think of waiting as a positive experience. Waiting often feels like time wasted, time robbed from things we would rather be doing. So often waiting is filled with dread, anxiety, or confusion. It elicits restlessness, distress, or fear. So often, waiting feels endless or prolonged.
What Are You Waiting For? explores the power and promise in waiting. By opening up the experience of waiting, by thinking about it creatively, and by perceiving it as part of God’s invitation to a new reality, this book seeks to transfigure time spent waiting. It is designed for the season of Advent but hopefully will provide a resource to which you might return when you find yourself in a time and place of waiting.
Q & A with Christine McSpadden
1. In the rush of preparing for Christmas, I often find it tough to slow down for Advent. The beginning of your book is all about time. What approach to time has helped you savor the coming season?
It helps for me to remember that time is flexible and fluid and that I can prioritize time. When time feels scarce and I start feeling overwhelmed by my schedule, I try to organize activities into the following categories: What is urgent and important, what is not urgent but still very important, what is urgent but not so important, and what is not urgent and not that important. Urgent things typically call most loudly for my attention, so I have to remember to pay attention to things that fit all categories—especially those things which are important but maybe not making as much urgency noise.
2. I love the many references in your book – from Holy Scripture to the Japanese discipline of kaizen to the Dostoevsky character Raskolnikov to Brother Lawrence. You draw from such a wide range of reading and life experience. If you could distill the message of the book into one short paragraph that incorporates all this wisdom, what would that one paragraph be?
Waiting can sometimes feel annoying and produce anxiety because there is some level of loss of control. Allowing ourselves to admit that loss of control and open ourselves to that expanse allows for creativity, serendipity, and wonder. It cultivates a trust that things are happening that we may not see or feel yet.
A Prayer of Self-Dedication (for Advent and for Anytime)
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly dedicated unto thee; and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What Are You Waiting For? is available for $5 from Forward Movement. If you would like to begin your Advent with this devotional, order by November 18 to receive your copy by November 27.
How are you feeling about the approach of Advent?