The Day of the Lord

What are you waiting for? So much of life is spent on the brink, almost there, but not yet. Waiting can be hard, that sense of unfulfilled expectation, that fear that the object of our desire may not be given to us, that our wait is in vain.

I'm sure we've all had times when we have waited in hopeful anticipation for something or someone to come. Yet, when you think about it, not waiting can be even sadder. There is that great, yawning sense of unfulfilled desire.

There is also that sense of hopelessness that stops wanting, stops waiting, that settles down too easily in present arrangements and contents oneself with what is, rather than to waste time waiting for what might be.

To wait takes vision, hope, and faith.

This is the first Sunday of Advent. Today's gospel reaches for strange, stirring imagery, signs from heaven, darkened sun and moon, the Son of Man coming down on clouds, all to say that the present world in which we live is not fixed, or final.

There's a new world coming. Something is being born among us. Wait and watch, and you will see a world breaking open into something new and wonderful.

God, having begun creation, shall finish creation. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Is this a "Pie in the sky," wishful unreality? Some might think so. Or perhaps the knowledge of a new heaven and a new earth is a realism born of faith, of the conviction that God intends to have the world as His own and that God will not stop until he gets the world he intends. Watch, and wait, we'll see what happens.

Advent is a time of waiting, waiting with eager expectation. Many of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands.

The doctor is late. You can't do anything about it, so you have to sit there and just wait. And it's not difficult to understand the irritation people feel when somebody says, 'Just wait."

Words like "just wait" seem to push us into passivity. And some waiting is passive. But there is also active waiting. Someone who sits in the doctors office waiting for the doctor will be experiencing passive waiting.

However, that same person sitting in the doctor's office listening to the music will also wait, but it will be a different kind of waiting, full of expectation of the next song. This is active waiting.

A hunter experiences the difference between passive waiting and active waiting. A hunter finds it burdensome to wait for the fall to arrive and deer season to begin, but once he or she is hunting, they don't find it a burden to wait for a deer to walk by.

The difference is that the one kind of waiting is passive and the other active. In the spring the hunter can do nothing but passively wait for time to pass. But in the woods, in their favorite spot, the waiting is filled with accomplishing all the many things he or she must do, all infused with an active sense of anticipation.

We can choose to wait passively for the day of the Lord. We can live our lives as if the world were a waiting room, filling the time with whatever is at hand, occupying ourselves with the tasks of the day, clinging to a world that seems to be concrete, dependable, and permanent.

We may assume an all-knowing God knows where to find us if He ever wants us. So we just sit and wait for something to happen. Such passive waiting doesn't require much in the way of attention or energy. It leaves us completely free to concentrate on the concerns of the moment, it gives us time to worry about things we can't control, time to sit passively without giving much thought to the future.

Or we can activate our waiting for the day of the Lord. We can wait as the psalmist waits: "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchman for the morning" (Psalm 130: 5-6).

It's a waiting filled with eager expectation. It's through this kind of active waiting, through what the psalmist called "waiting for the Lord," that we can be prepared to freely receive the saving gift of Jesus Christ.

Those who actively wait for the Lord will put themselves in a place where God is apt to draw near, when we are more likely to experience the living God in our midst. It's true that God can confront us at the checkout line in the supermarket or on the sixth hole of the golf course, but will we recognize God if we are not expecting Him?

It's also true that God can seem distant and exclusive within a church. In my mind this is the biggest danger every church must face, becoming exclusive like a country club, or becoming distant not wanting to welcome with open arms those not like ourselves.

We can sit passively in a worship service and experience nothing. Or in the very same service we can actively praise and worship God expecting that the living God will be among us. To be sure the experience will be different. If you expect nothing to happen chances are it won't, or at the very least you will miss it.

Those who wait passively for the Lord need not be concerned with prayer, worship, mission, Bible study, or any of the other ways in which we act out the Christian life. But those who wait actively for the Lord will be involved in all of these things realizing that God uses all of these activities as a means of grace.

Active waiting is a waiting that is spent in service, more like a waiter who "waits" on an important visitor rather than like a person nodding off in a doctor's waiting room. And in service to God, grace abounds, peace is present, and contentment becomes a way of life. Anticipating the Lord brings joy, contentment, and peace.

There is much to be done in such waiting, all of which is done in the glorious expectation of a new heaven and a new earth.

Advent is a time when our scriptures speak of yearning for fulfillment, of being stretched between times of "now," and the time "not yet" here. We are not yet at the place where God longs us to be. We are not yet at the place of fulfillment. You and I live "between the times," between the advent of God in Jesus and the time of the kingdom of God, which is the day of the Lord.

A glorious day when God gets what he wants, when all of creation will be at last brought to completion and humankind restored to the image of God. Are you ready for the day of the Lord?

Read other messages by Pastor Wade