Those of us who run in Christian circles know that Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, is a time of preparation. In many ways, Advent is the Lent of the holiday season. During Lent, we prepare for the passion and resurrection, while in Advent, we wait for the coming of the Savior (both His birth and His return at the end of time).
Waiting has a negative connotation in our culture. We wait impatiently for that Amazon box to show up on our porch. We wait in the line at the post office, fidgety because all we need is a sheet of stamps. If someone ahead of us in the fast food line starts asking questions about GMO, gluten-free options, and the fat content of the Mega-Burger, we start thinking, “What would happen if I screamed right now?”
But waiting has another meaning besides standing around for something to happen (while we are glued to our smartphones, of course). It can also mean to serve, as a waiter does on tables.
This has been a rotten year for many people. Some have lost family members due to COVID-19. Others, like some in my own family, have lost their jobs. According to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45% of adults in the United States have reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus.
And yet the light still shines in the darkness.
A Secret Santa in Idaho gifted a 65-year old grandmother with a new car. The woman worked two jobs, driving a vehicle that had over 240,000 miles on it.
A pastor in New Bedford, Massachusetts, (who bears a striking resemblance to Santa Claus), has delivered over 1600 Salvation Army care packages since the pandemic.
Dr. Jim O’Connell, founding physician of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless program, recalls the time when a mentor suggested he work for a year at a shelter. One day, the chief nurse told him to put aside his stethoscope and start soaking the feet of the homeless residents. O’Connell noted that this act flipped the traditional power structure of the know-it-all doctor dispensing sage medical advice to laypeople. He had to kneel at the dirty feet of the powerless and humbly serve them (sound familiar?).
Closer to home, I know several churches that are distributing food every week, most of them in a contactless way in their parking lots. There is a great need. Every Tuesday, dozens of cars are lined up at a church about a mile from my home. A pastor I know told me her church recently gave out 50 bags of groceries. “That wasn’t as much as we have been giving away,” she noted. “It’s been around 100 bags. We consider it a great joy to help others in Christ’s name and do it, no questions asked.”
This is the kind of waiting that God desires, because it imitates the Greatest Servant of all. Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the afflicted, we are doing these things unto Him (Matthew 25:35-40).
We are, ultimately, waiting on our Lord.