Saturday, November 28, 2015

What are you waiting for?

Often enough, Advent is presented as a waiting game - when I was a child the Advent calendar with its daily piece of chocolate was a way of making it a little more bearable to wait four whole weeks for Christmas. So this year, as I think about the beginning of this season, I ask myself (and you):

What are you waiting for?

I imagine two senses in which that question could strike the reader. What are you waiting for? In one sense, it asks what hope, what anticipation is keeping you afloat. The waiting is for something to come, something to happen, from outside. That reading fits well with the literal meaning of Advent, from ad + venire, "to come to," like the refrain of that old Advent song, "O Come O Come Emmanuel": "Rejoice, rejoice/Emmanuel/Shall come to thee, O Israel." Such a "waiting in joyful hope" resonates with the final words of the Bible: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"

But that question reads differently if we read it with the insistence of the person whose life depends on a different future (avenir), a rearrangement of the powers that be, something new that is yet to come (a-venir). What are you waiting for? Where are you? What is keeping you from doing something about the blood of the innocents which cries from the earth? Why do you not do something to repair the world which is being run off its tracks?

While I suspect that most Christians have a hard time imagining it, the Biblical tradition is loaded to the gills with people having the audacity to ask those laden, anguished questions of God: "How long, O Lord?" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Looking at the immensity of the needs around us, we might transpose those questions onto ourselves and our peers or, better yet, listen more attentively to the anguished voices that have been asking us those questions and awaiting our response. In Syria and Lebanon, in Mali, in Paris, Iraq and Afghanistan, in Ferguson and Baltimore and so many other places which cry for a newness to come, our desire to wait is a luxury that people cannot afford.

What are you waiting for?

As Martin Luther King put it, "Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively." If we choose simply to wait for things to change in our world, wait for God to drop a better world in our laps, then December 25 will come and go like any other day. If we celebrate the birthday of Jesus without enacting that which he enacted with his life, unto his death - the reign of God, the promise of a radical newness which is to come into people's lives - then we turn the season and the day into an anniversary rather than an invitation.

But it IS an invitation: Campus Ministry invites you to reflect with us every day this season as our friends, students, and colleagues share their dreams and their efforts to enact a world which we have been promised. We invite you to act with us to build that world which we hope and trust is to come. And we invite you to celebrate with us in our weekly and daily liturgies across campus.

What are you waiting for?

Patrick Cousins is the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry.

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