Entering Advent: Hurry Up and Wait!

Lectionary readings for November 29, 2015:
Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Psalm 25: 1-10; 1 Thessalonians  3:9-13; Luke 21: 25-36
Click for complete Advent calendar (Cycle C) and guidance on using the lectionary.

“Unto you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust.”  Ps 25:1, 2

“Hurry up and wait!” Usually this statement is laced with cynicism when we have rushed to the airport only to discover that our flight has been delayed or we have scurried out the door only to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the expressway. Full of irony, it captures the frustration we feel when we realize that any moments we might have gained in all our hurrying have now been lost as we find ourselves going nowhere. Usually, we do not see this as a good thing.

Waiting on Purpose

Advent, however, invites us into an entirely different experience with waiting.  During this season of anticipation and longing for the coming of Christ, we can actually choose to hurry up and wait. Rather than allowing our waiting to be entirely governed by external forces, we can actually create times of stillness for watching and praying and waiting on God in the places that feel empty and dark, devoid of meaning.

When circumstances do force us to wait, we can lean in and lift up our souls to the One whom we trust to do good things in and through us. Rather than succumbing to the inevitable frustration, we can allow ourselves to be changed by looking and loving and praying in whatever circumstance is causing us to wait, finding the presence of Christ there.

Thank You for the Waiting Time

Everyone involved in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus was waiting and watching for something. Mary and Joseph were waiting to be married.  Elizabeth was waiting for a baby.  Zechariah was waiting to regain his ability to speak. Simeon and Anna had been waiting to see the Messiah. The wise men had been watching for a special star.  And all were changed—as much by the process of waiting as by the fulfillment of what they had been longing for. This is their story and it is ours as well.

If we can wrap our heads around the transformative possibilities contained within this impossible season, we might discover that it is God who keeps us waiting for reasons only he knows.  And if we enter into this season with trust and with awe, we might even find ourselves thanking God for the many gifts this waiting time has to offer.

You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time
want us to wait
for the right time in which to discover
who we are, where we must go,
who will be with us, and what we must do.
So thank you…for the waiting time. 

You keep us looking.
You, the God of all peace,
want us to look in the right and wrong places
for signs of hope,
for people who are hopeless,
for visions of a better world that will appear
among the disappointments of the world we know.
So thank you…for the looking time.

You keep us loving.
You, the God whose name is love,
Wants us to be like you—
to love the loveless and the unlovely and the unlovable;
to love without jealousy or design or threat;
and, most difficult of all,
to love ourselves.
So thank you…for the loving time. 

And in all this,
You keep us.
Through hard questions with no easy answers;
through failing where we had hoped to succeed
and making an impact where we felt we were useless;
through patience and the dreams and love of others;
and through Jesus Christ and his Spirit,
you keep us.
So thank you…for the keeping time,
and for now,
and forever,

Iona Worship Book, 1998

©Ruth Haley Barton. 2015. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is Founder and Chief Essence Officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest (Oct 2022).
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[…] a period of watching and waiting for God: who is unguarded in glory and unmatched in mystery (https://transformingcenter.org/2015/11/entering-advent-hurry-wait/). This season of waiting on and watching for the Messiah provides an opportunity for unearthing our […]

[…] a period of watching and waiting for God: who is unguarded in glory and unmatched in mystery (https://transformingcenter.org/2015/11/entering-advent-hurry-wait/). This season of waiting on and watching for the Messiah provides an opportunity for unearthing our […]

Thank you, Ruth. We are savoring these words right now…
Tomorrow we will share some of your grace-filled words and heart with our congregation.

Waiting with gratitude,

Scott and Clare

Can’t wait to hear more about how your transforming church is experiencing Advent as a season of transformation. It is such deep encouragement to be on the journey not only with the two of you but also with your whole congregation!

Thank you for this meditation and the poem. I am thanking God for keeping me in those times when I feel like a failure and useless.
Lots of love to you and yours…so thankful for your ministry and what God has given you to share.

What a wonderful thing to be invited to experience those times and situations that seem so useless as times when God has kept us and held us and is at work in us. Thank you for sharing what resonated with you. Love and gratitude back to you!

Dr. Ruth Haley Barton ~

Your writings FEED me and rest my soul against the onslaught of the mentality of this rushed world. I also find that your writings are able to share rich truths in refreshing and easy to read manner and I value your clean, open and crisp format as well! 🙂

May God continue to grow your life into Christ’s image and bless the fruit of your mind and hands.

With great love and appreciation for you,


Thank you…blessed by your blessing. 🙂

What a wonderful way to reflect as advent begins. How true but difficult to grasp in the midst. There is blessing in waiting.

I love waiting times. They are good times to meditate, to read a good book, to do handwork, to visit with a fellow waiter. Thank you for reminding me to be thankful for those times.

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