It was Sept. 22, 2005, when my husband and I received a phone call we won’t soon forget. It was from our dear, dear friends in Webster, Texas. They were calling us to ask if they could stay with us for a ... while.
You see, they and nearly 7 million other people in the Texas Gulf coast were having to evacuate because Hurricane Rita was approaching. They asked politely if their niece could also come ... and her cat ... and then there was their daughter’s boyfriend and his roommate, and later his family of five.
We, of course, eagerly agreed and found ourselves waiting for 13 guests to arrive!
We got busy, making up cots and couches, cleaning the house, filling the refrigerator, cooking, laying out towels, reworking schedules, and as I recall, even arranging for a physician friend to drop by since we’d heard that the niece’s cat was so traumatized that it had scratched its young owner.
Our waiting was purposeful, weighty and significant. During the preparation time, we invested in the promise that our friends would eventually arrive.
What we did really mattered. We engaged in “expectant doing.” We did not wait “inactively” as we might wait in the lobby of a doctor’s office for our name to be called or at the airport’s gate for our flight to be boarded. We waited “actively.”
You know, thinking about waiting is a good thing to do since we’re all now in the church season of Advent, and Advent is all about waiting.
In first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, an Advent text, we learn the story of John the Baptist, the maverick prophet who lived and preached in the wilderness, wore animal skins, and ate honey and locusts.
John fulfilled Isaiah’s promise to Israel, by calling the people of that time, people who lived in fear and under oppression, to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
He gave them a message of hope, a message of God’s promise to hear their cries and come to them in the person of Jesus Christ, bringing healing, peace and justice.
It was a message bundled with a call to repent, to change from ways which separated them from God. They were called to evaluate how they were living and consider how they were to wait.
Well, the message is for us as well. For we live in a broken world with sometimes overwhelming suffering and pain. And we are urged to prepare for God who will come to bring healing, peace and justice. However, ours is an “already, but not yet time.”
We live in the in-between. Evil was doomed on Calvary and we know it will be finally vanquished when Christ comes again. He will, in the end, bring fully and finally his kingdom of healing, peace and justice, the kingdom of heaven. We know of Jesus’ first advent, while we wait for his second!
So, the question is, “How are we to wait?” Well, our waiting must be active. By the Holy Spirit’s power living in us, we need evaluate how we are living and repent of that which separates us from God. Indeed, sin stands to threaten our very lives. And then, we must “expectantly do,” making our days count with purposeful, weighty and significant things.
You remember Mark’s opening words? “The Beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ?” Well, it sure is. The story is not over. It’s still going on ... through us.
We cannot sit on our hands waiting for Christ’s return as if vacantly parking in the doctor’s lobby or at the airplane’s gate, but we need to prepare, as if guests will be arriving soon at our homes.
We need to get in the game and make a difference in other people’s lives, sharing and extending ourselves for them, loving with depth and sacrifice, letting God continue to write the good news of Jesus in and through us.
For Jesus is even now working to bring the Kingdom. God’s end times promises are being fulfilled in part now through our active waiting!
So, as Dec. 25 approaches, during this Advent season, let’s meet again in prayer the One who has already atoned for our doubt and regret, fear, greed, apathy, cynicism, pessimism and prejudice.
Let’s meet the One who came as a babe in Bethlehem so long ago, and will someday come again in glory on the clouds.
Let’s meet him who promises a time of joy and peace and goodwill to all. Meet him and take him with you as you go into the world to actively, ACTIVELY wait, “to prepare the way of the Lord.” Amen.
The Rev. NAOMI INGRIM is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Copperas Cove.