I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
– Psalm 40:1-3
Advent is the time when we celebrate most everyone’s least favorite spiritual practice: waiting. It is that famously in-between time, when we are neither where we were nor where we are headed. Few people set out with the goal of waiting, except perhaps fishermen. But every single day, wait we must.
Dr. Seuss described it in his book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” He said there are high flying times and scared times in life, but everyone sooner or later finds themselves in the waiting place.
Sometimes we approach church like the world’s largest waiting place. There is less commotion than at the airport, and more space than at the doctor’s office, but most people there are tapping their foot for something. And it sounds like this:
In the pews every week, there are people waiting…
waiting for the service to end or the organ to start,
for a clearer path or a healed heart,
for the doctor to call or snow to snow,
waiting around for a yes or a no,
for a better job or their future wife,
for a bigger house or a calmer life,
for the boss to decide or for giving to spike,
for a Santa to bring a shiny new bike,
for the contract to end or the package to come,
for the big birthday party or to stop feeling numb,
for a tooth to fall out or the other shoe to drop,
for a weekend with girls to getaway and shop,
for the email to come or for roots to show,
for the trip to St. Louis or the kids to grow,
for the pastor to leave or the next review,
for the phone to ring from their stepson Lou,
for the end of the month or to say “I do.”
everyone is waiting so we do what we do.
We tap our foot, we clean the house,
We finally fix the computer mouse,
We keep hitting ‘refresh’ or changing the channel,
We change out the pictures on the living room mantle,
We tend flocks by night, or follow a star,
We all feel a tug, wherever we are.
The one who is coming will not be delayed,
And he told us to remember and not be afraid.
So we sing and pray and light candles and hope,
And wait a bit longer than the end of our rope.
The day will come and is already here,
When all people together, the far and the near,
Will join in the song that is ancient and new,
And love will be born.
Then, Merry Christmas to you.
Becca Messman is the associate pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon, Virginia. She leads “Lunch for the Soul” – a ministry with Hispanic day laborers. Her other passions are preaching and offering pastoral prayers, leading retreats, energizing church leaders to serve the community around them, youth and young adult ministry, and cultivating the “fear and trembling” holy journey of parenting. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Dave, her two young children, and her dog Luna.