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Tuesday, December 17, 2013



Pilgrimage: St. Peter's 1 (2011)
Michelle Arnold Paine

When we look at the first two chapters of Luke we see the story of Jesus’ birth introducing us to people who are waiting: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon and Anna.

In our culture, waiting is often seen as a waste of time. When we find ourselves in the experience of waiting our restlessness pushes us to want to do something, get going, or try to make something happen. We question Why are we just sitting here waiting?

Waiting can be for some of us an isolated desert experience. We tend to keep our attentions confused between where we want to go and where we really are. We are restless and preoccupied and often find ourselves trying to do something to get out of waiting.

What often fuels this unwillingness to wait is fear. When we are fearful we have a hard time waiting because when afraid we want to get away from where we are.

Yet, what do we see in the beginning of Luke’s gospel? We see people who hear the words “do not be afraid. I have something good to say to you.” What is established is the truth that they are waiting for something new and good to happen. These are people who trust and count on the word of God. They are able to wait and be attentive and expectant in their waiting.

What is the nature and practice of waiting?  How does God want us to understand the importance of waiting? LUKE 1:13, 31 “Zechariah…your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son.” “Mary… Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son.” There is something happening here that is a key to understanding what waiting is all about. It is that they have received a promise that within them they sense that something is at work. 

Waiting has to do with having what we are waiting for already begin in us.We do not wait in a place that moves from nothing to nothing more. Rather, we move from something toward something more. In this place of waiting we see Zechariah, Mary and Elizabeth inspired to wait because of the seed of God’s promise planted in them. They are able to let this seed grow and nurture and feed them…to be birthed in them
Waiting is not passive, but active. We might view it as a hopeless state, but we see in scripture that waiting more about being alive and present to the moment at hand. The splendid reality remains something is happening where you are, and you are wise to be attentive to such moments. What is being birthed in you?

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patient means:  the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out in the realization that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.

An impatient person is always expecting the real thing to happen in some other place.
Mary and Elizabeth modeled what waiting is all about. They were able to pay attention, and be alert and patient in the waiting so they could hear the voice of the Lord. Even when they doubted at first, they waited to hear God’s response.

Waiting is also where we need to give up control because to wait is often open-ended. We want definite, clear-cut, concrete answers. We cannot stay in the place of waiting because we get wrapped up in wishes instead of living in a place of hope. Wishes tend to have attached to them the need to control the future. We want to do the thing that will make the desired result take place. Our wishes also can be tied to nagging fears.

The difference with Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah is they were not filled with wishes, but with HOPE.
Henry Nouwen describes hope this way: “Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not according to our wishes.

Mary was in the place of open-ended waiting. Her words “I am the handmaiden of the lord … let what you have said to me be done,” are words that speak of trusting good things will happen even when we don’t know what it all means. Our waiting, like Mary’s, should be open to all possibilities. For when we listen carefully, we can trust in letting God define our life according to His Love for us and not according to our fears. Henry Nouwen defines spiritual life as, “a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.”                                                            

In this beautiful, effulgent season, we are reminded to wait for the one who is our hope. Not based in positive or negative thinking or as a matter of chance, Jesus is our hope and our hope in Him is based on the God who will be with us at all times, in all places, whatever happens.

When we wait where Jesus is our hope, we are in an active movement of God leading us. Mary was in a posture of actively waiting for God to fulfill what He promised her. It was letting God be God and letting the Lord speak forth life into her waiting.


Often we are unable to wait because we don’t know how God is showing us how to wait or where it will lead us, if we do manage to wait.

Truth be told, the Christmas star is an invitation to each of us to follow, a calling forth from God to go where He is. The star is God’s finger pointing to where we can find Him. The star points to Jesus, Jesus points to who and what God is; we can find Him in the midst of our searching and our waiting.

God is asking us to live in the movement of God leading us as we follow the star put before us. We are waiting for what is to come, but engaged in God leading, guiding us. We wait; listening to Him who is there with us in the waiting. Our waiting becomes more familiar and still, and we realize that who we are waiting for is with us, here to speak to us in the middle of the waiting into the silence of our hearts.

The star is the symbol to follow the light in the places of darkness. We may not know where, or how, or which way to go in the darkness, but the finger of God is pointing the way for us to follow.

Look at the paintings on the walls. Are you drawn toward any one of them? Spend some time gazing at a painting or more. Ask God to reveal something about who he is or who you are in him? Stay in this listening posture until you’ve sense God is finished speaking to you by what you’ve seen.

Now reflect on the questions below. Listen for his response to you:

1. Lord, how do you want to best prepare my heart in this time of waiting?

2. Father, how do you want me to follow your light that points the way you set before me?
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