I recently spent a blissful weekend on retreat at the Benedictine Abbey in Jamberoo. It was so still and peaceful; it is a place of silence, prayer and meditation.
One of the women accompanying me commented that she didn’t realise how quickly quiet on the outside would lead to quiet on the inside. I noticed this sense of peace on the faces of the Nuns as they engaged in the Liturgy of the Hours, which forms the prayers they offer each day. As the Scriptures were opened and read, I noticed their eyes closed, and a serene sense of anticipation on each face. The nuns were waiting; waiting for God to speak to them; waiting for hope to break through. As I spent time in silence, I too waited on God. I, too, expected to notice the way God was already at work in the world and in my life. And I found myself surprised by joy in small things like orange butterflies dancing alongside me up the path towards the Abbey.
We have nearly reached the season of Advent, a time where the church waits. We wait to celebrate the coming of God to the world as a vulnerable infant: ‘Emmanuel’ or ‘God-with-us’. But we also wait for the coming of God’s reign in all its fullness and beauty. We hope; we anticipate; we trust that God is still at work in the world. We expect to see the signs of God’s reign in our midst, surprising us with joy, calling us to seek peace and justice, helping us to point towards Christ.
Douglas John Hall is a theologian whose work I have returned to again and again over the years. One of his latest books is called Waiting for Gospel. He writes about the sense of hopelessness that is so prevalent in our community: loneliness, a lack of purpose, disconnection from other people, relentless busyness. This is a community waiting to hear good news which is loving, relational, vulnerable and authentic. Mostly, this is a world waiting to hear words of hope- that we do have a future, that there is something beyond, something more. In Advent we remember the something more in God’s coming to live humanly among us and in belief that God isn’t finished with us yet.
As we draw near to the season of Advent:
What is it that we are waiting for?
What is it that we would hear if we took time to listen?
What is it that God is calling us to notice in our midst?