(12/1/2011) Several years ago, my family and I went to Virginia to spend Christmas with my godparents. It snowed the night before we left, so our trip was beautiful. As we got closer to their house, the view began to change. Instead of snow, they had had an ice storm. Everything was encased in ice Ė the leaves, the signs, the roads, the power lines. It was beautiful but dangerous. We arrived safely to a cold, dark house. The live Christmas tree that my godfather had bought was still in the truck, caked in ice. The men dragged it as far as the front porch. As if on cue, the power came on ,a nd we spent the afternoon baking gingerbread cookies and decorating them with icing. Then, bundled in our coats and gloves, we went to the porch and hung them on the frozen tree.

The next day, the thaw came. As the frozen tree melted, the cookies began to stretch and pull; their icing smiles began to droop. Eventually, one by one, they fell to the ground and our festive, frozen tree was decorated with ghoulish heads, as their bodies littered the ground.

I have been thinking about that tree lately. Sometimes it seems like we are a lot like those gingerbread people, living in a place that is sometimes beautiful, and sometimes deadly. Waiting and hoping that the environment doesnít change in such a way that we are left with nothing.

We, people of faith, are now in the season of Advent, those four weeks that usher in Christmas. Advent is a time when we wait. We hover in between the promise of God and the realization of those promises. Hovering and hopingÖ.

But this waiting game can become very difficult, especially as it stretches on year to year, generation to generation, age to age. During this season of waiting we remember the promises of the prophet Isaiah that the people will "beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war no more." (Isaiah 2:4)

What a wonderful vision: no more war or terrorism. The boundaries hat separate people from each other melt away . No more need of weaponry and all that technology used to create tools that help our society to grow and thrive. Can you even imagine what this would be like, in this era of underwear bombers and intrusive security checks?

But now all we can do is wait.

In his book, Oh The Places You Will Go! Dr. Seuss wrote of the "Waiting Place" where people wait and wait for buses and trains, mail or rain, yes or no. I think Advent is our Waiting Place. All of us have been called to spend more time than we like in the Waiting Place!

From Egypt to the wilderness, from Babylonian exile to Roman oppression, Godís people have stayed in the waiting place. Sometimes we wait for generations at a time, longing for the God of Sinai and the burning bush to tear open the heavens and come down. The people demand Godís presence, waiting for God to intervene in history again.

Yet we donít like to think of believers as people who wait. For God. Ours is not a culture that wants to wait. We want what we want, and we want it right now.

We might be impatient but God has shown the people over and over again that Godís ways never change. Throughout the Bible, God takes the initiative while Godís people can only wait. And so today, December 2011, we can only sit down in the waiting place andÖ wait. We must wait, just as the people waited in the wilderness and in exile and today. We must wait like a mother waiting for a baby to be born. We must wait like a father waiting to walk his daughter down the aisle. We must wait, like a child waiting for Christmas morning.

God is still with us and if we listen very carefully, while we are in the waiting place, we might hear Godís voice whisper: "Be still and know that I am God." Advent, these days as Christmas approaches, reminds us to take time in our hectic holidays schedules and be still, to make ourselves quietÖ to wait for Godís greatest gift of all.

If we allow ourselves to stay in the waiting place, we can prepare ourselves, like a child waiting for a bedtime story. In the waiting place, we will hear the familiar but always new story of a starry night in Bethlehem as God intervenes in history again. We hear of new parents in a manger, shepherds and MagiÖ and it all begins anew. In the waiting place, we enter a place of preparation before revelation descends upon us, like the light from a North Star.

Which bring me back to that Christmas tree and the drooping gingerbread people. After its dreary beginning, that same tree was planted in front of my godparentsí house in the spring. Now, thirteen years later, it stands tall and strong, offering shelter and beautyÖ offering hope for new life. The waiting place is not a permanent stop on lifeís journey. It is but a resting place as God prepares us for the destination. Isaiahís vision of peace and prosperity still lives in our hearts and Godís vision of a new reality, ushered in with the birth of a baby boy, continues. While we sit in the waiting place, we have confidence in the reality that Isaiah proclaimed.

The congregation of Incarnation United Church of Christ invites you to join us in our waiting place, as we celebrate that moment when Godís grace burst forth in the birth of Jesus Christ. Join us on Christmas Eve at 8:00 pm for a special candlelight service. On Christmas Day, we will gather together to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus during our regular Sunday 9:15 am service.