Advent: What Does It Mean to Wait?

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It has often been said that waiting has become more difficult for us, as a society, now that technology has cut time-frames in accessing and downloading information, in cooking our food, and in the time it takes to watch a whole season of a show. The logic goes like this: the shorter completion times create a shorter attention span, and this shorter attention span extends to all areas of our lives. Thus, where waiting might have been considered part of normal everyday life at one time, it is often met now with frustration, confusion, even despair.

While we can’t go back to a time when technology-based short-cuts didn’t exist, we can re-frame our understanding of and perspective toward waiting. Advent, the season of waiting, seems like the perfect time to give it a try. The Advent season of the Christian liturgical calendar signals a time of dual waiting: remembering the time when people waited for the arrival of a Savior (which came with Jesus’ birth) and contemporary waiting for Jesus’ return. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day are one way Christians focus their minds, hearts, bodies, and souls toward what it means to wait, both then and now. As a means of spiritual practice, consider the four weeks below as a reflection template for your own journey to discover, “What Does It Mean to Wait?” This resource can be used individually or with a group. If the latter, consider each person reflecting individually before the group meeting which can then be used to share reflections with one another. Below you will find four weeks, each one focused on the four virtues often highlighted throughout Advent: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.

WEEK ONE, WAITING IN HOPE:

Think of a time when you waited for something with hope and a time when you waited for something without hope. What, if anything, were the differences in how you experienced the wait, your feelings or perspective, the outcome, or any additional details you can recall?

Imagine you were a person waiting for the Savior to come for the first time. Many promises have been made (through prophets, narratives, scripture, etc) but the years go by, and, no Savior. What would help you hold onto hope? How would you help someone else to do so? What difference would waiting in hope make to your journey?

What do your reflections (or the reflections of your group) highlight for you about what it means to hope during Advent 2018?

WEEK TWO, WAITING IN LOVE:

Define love. Do you have different definitions of love or does one definition cross boundaries of relationship, circumstance, and culture? List any additional definitions you would use, if any.

Imagine waiting for a loved one to come home. Use as many descriptive words, other than love, to describe the waiting period. What different words would you use when thinking of the

following examples: [1] a loved one to return after a 2 year military deployment; [2] a child to return home after a stay in the hospital; [3] your family to return home after a hurricane or flood; [4] college kids returning during holiday breaks; [5] something else?

How do we wait for God in love? How does God wait for us in love? How does this kind of love help us to understand our role as those who follow the God who works for justice for all?

WEEK THREE, WAITING IN JOY:

What, if anything, is the difference between happiness and joy?

Can you have joy while you wait for God to provide an answer to your prayer? What if you don’t hear for a whole day? A month? A year? Longer? Thinking back on times when you’ve waited for an answer to prayer – did you have joy? Let your reflections go wherever they go.

What does it mean to wait for justice in joy? How can we have joy while racial injustices are amplified, sustained, and protected?

WEEK FOUR, WAITING IN PEACE:

Define peace.

Sometimes, injustices remain intact because peace is defined as “without conflict” or “without disagreement” or “without discomfort.” When injustices are named – and conflict, disagreement, or discomfort arise – calls for “peace” are sometimes actually codes for “let’s not talk about it.”

How can we define peace without allowing injustices to remain?

How do we wait while we work toward justice? Come up with as many options as you can.

CHRISTMAS DAY:

Name one “aha” moment you had during Advent 2018.

Name one way your life (beliefs, thoughts, practices, schedule, etc.) will be different because of your reflections and experiences during this Advent season.

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