Haven’t we all had plenty of waiting practice this past year? Waiting for the premier’s daily report…waiting for the lockdown to be announced…waiting for the borders to be lifted…waiting for that long-delayed visit to the hairdresser…waiting for Australia Post to deliver the goods we’ve ordered…waiting for that dishwasher part that is lost in the supply chain somewhere…waiting for the kids to be able to go back to the classroom…waiting to hug those we love…waiting, waiting, waiting.
Most of us have discovered waiting, which sounds easy, can be stressful. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m quite sure all this practice has not improved my waiting game that much. Some waiting is done with resignation, some with (im)patient fortitude, some in boredom, some is fraught with anxiety, some in time wasting, and sometimes we just wait in outright frustration. Acceptance and “this is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Psalm 118) seem often to be missing.
And now as we near year’s end, we come to another, but diametrically opposite, time of waiting and anticipation: Advent — celebrating the comings of Jesus! This is also a time of waiting, but with overwhelming gratitude and acceptance. We await with great expectation our King returning in glory…we look forward to the upcoming celebration of his birth…we are beyond grateful he has already come to each of us and we yearn for our relationship in and with him to grow deeper day by day. It is a time of wonder and thanksgiving at how loved we are.
In this season, we often think of Mary and the waiting she faced as her life was abruptly intercepted with an angel’s announcement. This surely was a life crisis. She now had to await her family’s reaction, to wait and wonder just what her fiancé would say and do, and what the villagers she’d grown up with would think. She anticipated the birth of her boy child, the prophesied Messiah —and could only wonder how does one mother a Messiah?
Her time of waiting was not without stress by any means. We see in Luke 1 she was troubled, perplexed and fearful (could those adjectives not also describe these pandemic times we are living through?) and yet her acceptance, her thoughtfulness and her faith are in stark contrast to many of the waiting postures which have been on display during our current time of waiting.
The poem below triggered my desire to spend some quality time with Mary and her story this season—learning to treasure things in my heart, even if I can’t see exactly how they are working out, to ponder with God and let him guide me into some of her beautiful attitudes towards life, towards waiting, towards stress and most of all towards God.
Mary considers her situation
by Luci Shaw
What next, she wonders,
with the angel disappearing, and her room suddenly gone dark.
The loneliness of her news
how to tell her mother.
Still, the secret at her heart burns like
a sun rising.
How to hold it in—
that which cannot be contained.
She nestles into herself, half-convinced
it was some kind of good dream,
she its visionary.
But then, part dazzled, part prescient—
she hugs her body, a pod with a seed
that will split her.
[SCAPE Poems, page 71; Cascade Books, October 2013]