I’ve had friends and acquaintances who reside in the great Down Under: New Zealand and Australia. Thinking about Christmas with Santa wearing shorts and coming in on a surfboard has never been an easy to imagine. Advent is about awaiting the Savior’s birth in the “bleak mid-winter” not the bright sunshine.
But as I take in the beauty of the late fall and the early winter in the northern hemisphere I feel a longing to see the land of my southern friends, especially on the days my fingers go numb from the cold snow I’ve been shoveling from the front walk. While I am aware of the trappings of the season all around from tales of magical sugar plums and sacred angels, the season of waiting, Advent, places a certain holy dissonance in my outlook. Waiting implies patience, the result of hope-filled endurance, arising from the awareness that the present is still lacking something essential. So we wait.
As the Apostle Paul puts it, "we groan inwardly" in the time of waiting, a waiting that Paul says includes all of nature waiting with eager longing the birth of a new era (Rom 8). We, and creation, groaning and waiting go together. But so does hoping and waiting. As we wait for God to bring a new dawn each morning, we trust in God to bring the new era of "peace on earth".
Though we hope, we can still groan. Almost like passenger weary of travel asking, "Are we there yet?"
We hope by looking forward. We remember the previous graces and become open to receiving them again, fresh and new, but familiar. I await the green-leafed shade trees turning shades of red and gold and look forward to the crunching of leaves. I love late fall trees stripped and waiting, snow sleet, cold rain forcing us inside with coffee and tea and sweaters seeking warmth. Each season, I wait, and hope for the next.
In the heat of summer and the exorbitant air conditioning bills,
I long for the coolness of the fall.
In the barren-branched, steel grey skies of fall with dampness and mud,
I long the clean white blanket of winter’s snow.
In the frigid, shortened days of winter’s darkness
I look for the new sprouts and blossoms of spring.
In the abundance of pollen and blooms my allergies and sneezing longs for the hot, bright days of summer’s searing sun.
I begin to look forward to fall’s steel-grey skies.
Always seeking that which is to come, in faith and hope, we:
Worship God in the sacrament of the present abundance of available grace. Worship God in the restless impatience, trusting that God who has yet more in store. Worship God with grateful hands open and head held back receiving sun, wind, rain, and snow. Worship God with wrinkled forehead and closed eyes seeing by faith and not by sight what wonders are yet to come. Worship God in the grace-filled now and in the impatient hope of what is yet to come.