by the Rev. Deacon Paula Waite.
Wait. Throughout our lives we experience the expectation of things to come. Soon-to-be mothers await the birth of a child. We work diligently at our chosen professions and wait for the day when we can retire and rest. We plant bulbs in the fall and wait for the kaleidoscope of color that will be the uit of our labors in the spring. Serving as chaplain in a hospital, I accompany patients and families many times as they wait for relief from suffering or for a miracle cure for an illness.
But during all of these in-between times, we are not stagnant. A mother’s healthy eating and exercise habits strengthen the growing child within her womb. Performing our vocations with integrity keeps us employed, and seeding away savings helps retirement to be fulfilling. We provide good soil and water to nourish our gardens. In the hospital we pray and call on God to be present as we navigate illness and the temporary nature of our existence.
During the season of Advent, Christians wait with expectation for the coming of the Christ child, Jesus of Nazareth. Not only do we wait for his humble arrival in a stable in Bethlehem, but we also look toward the future when He will stand among us. However, during his life on Earth, Jesus did not ask his followers to sit by complacently waiting for some future event; instead, he stated emphatically, “The kingdom of God is among you” (Luk. 17:21). If God’s kingdom is present in the midst of our lives today, just as we prepare for the birth of a child or till the soil for our gardens and orchards to flourish, our waiting cannot and should not be passive.
Biblical scholars often reflect on our need to be involved in kingdom building. In his book Inhabiting the Cruciform God, Pauline scholar Michael Gorman speaks of this awareness, “In the meantime, by the power of the Spirit of Father and Son, the new people, the new humanity bears witness in word and deed to that glorious future by participating now in the life and mission of the triune cruciform God.” According to theologian N. T. Wright, our task “… is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second” (Surprised by Hope).
This Advent let us all take action and witness to the Kingdom of God that is already present in our midst. In a world where the news of the day encourages divisions and conflict, we are called to be living examples of Christ’s love. Our Baptismal Covenant commits us to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” Every person has something to contribute to build up the beloved community formed by the Body of Christ. We must be examples not of fear, not of conflict and derision, but of hope and love.
In many ways, we exist in a world not so different from the world in which Jesus lived. For example, his was a time of conflict and political rivalries, as well as a time when people were excluded because of their race or place of birth, or because of poverty or illness. Yet within that world, Jesus brought hope; and if we allow it within ours, Jesus can bring hope. Embracing the promise found in Advent, we are no longer bound by sin and darkness. Our living God has given us hope — hope not only for the future, but also for our lives, here and now. St. Paul encourages Christians throughout the ages, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thes. 5:8). It is hope that gives us the ability to act confidently within our tumultuous world.
By following Jesus and through obedience to the gospel, we can take part in the building of the kingdom today. With every act of love, gratitude, and kindness we offer to our fellow human beings, we embody real and effective signs of God’s renewed creation in the midst of our present age. Let us breathe in the Holy Spirit, reflect on our own spiritual gifts, and help others to be empowered in theirs. Let us not linger on the threshold waiting for a better age, but instead move forward as resurrection people engaged in building up the kingdom of God that was inaugurated by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
Paula Waite is a vocational deacon and serves the congregation of St. John the Baptist Church in Milton. She also serves as a staff chaplain at Beebe Hospital in Lewes. firstname.lastname@example.org