Last week at our ladies’ breakfast we read the Ökumenische Gebet im Advent (Ecumenical Prayer during Advent) together. The theme and title was Warten: Waiting. And for me, in that moment, it could not have been more appropriate.
An image: Death, in this case, is like a pregnancy. You feel it in your gut, bearing down, and you know, as a woman nearing her time knows, it will not be much longer. But still, you must wait. This pregnancy has been good and afforded you time – years even – to allow the acceptance of this death to grow inside you. The birth into death will be painful, it will rip your heart into pieces, and yet you know: it is good. It means release for the dying and the living. But still, you must wait.
And then the news of Nelson Mandela’s death rocked the world, not because we were surprised that a 95-year-old sick man died, but we rejoiced that such a man ever lived. As I watched television reports of his life and about apartheid in South Africa, I felt confident Mandela could tell us all a story about waiting. 27 years – 27 years! – he waited to be released from prison; he waited to finally begin the work of reuniting he had been called to do. And how many South Africans waited day in, day out for peace, waited to be acknowledged as a fellow human being?
Translated from the Ökumenische Gebet im Advent:
Complaints in Advent: Where are your zeal and your might? We see nothing of them. Your famous compassion – it is hard as bone! Lamentations – they disturb the reflection, the eagerly awaited celebration.
But they’re still there: those who have become despondent while waiting, who are sick and those who are sad, who bemoan God’s compassion.
They are among us: those who have become gridlocked and desperate. And if I am the one who finds no way out? Then the Season of Advent is not a time of anticipation, it is burdensome. For them God is very far away. He is not caring for them. So why should people care about God?
And yet, we wait. We wait for God to reveal himself to us. We wait for that day when we celebrate God’s broken silence manifested in birth. So often it seems God’s light becomes more engulfed by the darkness; that God has forgotten His promise to come. But still we remember individuals like Nelson Mandela or take comfort in knowing a loved one opens her eyes to angels singing “Gloria” and know –
God has come, and He will come again. And so, during this Season of Advent: we wait.