Just a bit Longer Let’s pray… Rev Stuart C. Buisch
Waiting. A patient at three in the afternoon is waiting for 11 tomorrow morning to be released. Waiting with new health and new strength. Ten pm at night a friend calls, ‘I am just wanting to go to sleep and not wake up,’ waiting for the angel of death, with the message, come thou good and faithful servant and enter into all that has been prepared for you. Thanksgiving day has all these people waiting on the turkey getting done – how much time for each pound of bird? The people of Israel waiting for the messiah, God’s anointed to come and do what each one hopes for. Christians in those silly churches waiting for Advent to be over (Lent too), who ever said waiting is worth reflecting on. Israel is waiting to be free of enemies at any border waiting to take them over.
A day unlike any other. Words of terror or hope? We have journeyed with Isaiah through this time of Advent. Our news has been crowded out with stories that sober our spirits, cause us to celebrate and everything in between. People are dying of loneliness, and businesses keep adjusting to the current needs and possibilities of this time. Isaiah reflects a time of great upheaval. Alliances are supposed to help but few are turning to God for help. God who? You might hear them ask.
So the kings of Israel and Aram are meeting to make a plan for destroying Judah. So to prove that all will be well Isaiah says to King Ahaz, ‘ask for a sign, any sign, big or small.’ Ahaz refuses. He is part of a royal family but he clearly is not comfortable with God. He seems to suggest that asking God for a sign is the wrong thing to do. But I wonder if it really discloses how little his trust is in God. Furthermore, how little he knows the ways of Isaiah and who Isaiah obeys. Isaiah is not a fly by night. He comes to the king when he has something to say, something to tell. Something to proclaim.
On the other hand, God is not to be messed with. How is one sure that God wants us to ask for something. Do we ask big or small, impossible or reasonable? I think Ahaz speaks right into our faith and experience of life. Faith puts us into situations that we can’t rationalize our way out of. Much as we might like certainty, freedom, safety faith puts situations that we can’t always see the end of.
Ahaz could only see that his kingdom was at risk of foreign powers. So Isaiah gives him a reason to wait. The impossible – an individual conceiving on their own – pregnant and waiting for birth. Every birth has uncertainty. Some couples are only too aware of how tenuous birth can be. So Isaiah calls Ahaz to believe that after a wait all his political risks will be over.
Let’s think about this waiting. Luke tells the story of a widow losing her only son. In the unit Friday there were two patients who had just lost a child and one who had just lost their spouse. What was the woman in Luke thinking as she followed her son’s body to the grave. Devastation, despair, hopelessness, loss of reason to live, inability to thrive?
There is a reason to focus on waiting because it is a central part of life and a ready part of faith. Waiting lets go of certainty, but not of hope. Waiting with God believes that someone will always hold on to God’s work in us. After the long period of waiting God will do something that builds life, hope and love. Waiting with God doesn’t dictate what will happen but calls us, the waiting ones, to believe that some kind of good will unfold. Not now, maybe not tomorrow. Waiting with God denies our sense of control and that’s what Advent can really help us with. Life doesn’t need us to control it.
When God came to the garden in the cool of the day, Adam and Eve were surprised at his arrival. The widow of Luke 7 was surprised to receive her son back. Israel was surprised that one who claimed to be the Messiah wasn’t a military leader with guerilla warfare camps in training to destroy Roman oppression. More they were surprised that the real battles of faith happen within each heart. They don’t have simple solutions with ready-made results. There is, may I say it, the wait. The hours between afternoon and release projected to be 11am. The wait for the last breath, whether family hear it or the dying refuses to let go until everyone has left the room. The wait for the baby to start contractions, the wait for political forces to shift and lose power, and the influence that life have on changing what we see in the world around us.
May this advent sharpen our focus on God, and help us to look for what God may want to accomplish or bring to fruition in our lives, in the community of our church family and in our neighborhoods.
God of all hope and joy, open our hearts in welcome, that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.
Praise and honor to you living God; your coming will be like a thief in the night, like lightning flashing across the sky. Grant that we may be ready, and our hearts answer, Come Lord Jesus.