So Advent is nearly over, a time, as a friend writes, of long nights, and near light … a season for waking and watching.

What am I waiting for? Christmas day presents and feasting? The coming of our out of town family whom we see so seldom? Visits with friends? All that, but more.

For the past few weeks I have been carrying in my pocket a few pebbles that I picked up on a prayer walk just as Advent began. Each one as I finger it reminds me to live in the present moment, to heed the biblical admonitions for Advent:

Keep awake … for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. (Jesus)

You know what time it is, how it is not the moment for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer than when we became believers. (Paul)

We wait most of all for the Coming One… coming in a fresh way to visit our homes and hearts, coming at the end to put our disjointed world together again.

Two thoughts about waiting wakefully have gently nudged my heart these past weeks.

One is a story by Richard Rohr about a disciple who asked his spiritual mentor what he could do to make himself grow spiritually.

The master answered, “As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”

Astonished, the disciple asked what good then were the spiritual exercises his leader commended.

“To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise,” answered his mentor.

In Redeeming Time (a study of T. S. Eliot’s poem Four Quartets) Kenneth Paul Kramer cites a distinction the philosopher
Heidegger made between waiting “for” and waiting “upon.”

Waiting for involves having a fixed and concrete result of that waiting in mind.

Waiting upon involves allowing insight to emerge … without a prior desired result. That kind of waiting is an “openness”
toward mystery; it leads to a new grounding in the reality of God’s will and ways; it involves a kind of “open-minded meditative thinking.”

That, I think, is the kind of waiting Mary modeled in the gospel story, when she pondered in her heart what the angel had to say about the son she would bear. She hardly knew what she was waiting for. But she was faithfully ready to wait upon God to redeem her time, in his time.

With so much waiting to do in our lives, “waiting upon,” “waiting wakefully” is worth meditating on during the rest of Advent.

The ancient British King Edward asked a Celtic missionary what they could expect if they accepted this new message of Christ he brought them.

“Surprise upon surprise,” answered the Celtic apostle. “And every surprise good.”

And that is worth waiting upon!

Leighton Ford,

December 19, 2007

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