I don’t like waiting. By now I’ve lived enough of life with the internet and smart phones and online shopping to have forgotten what it means to wait. Forgetting what it means to wait is not good for the human soul. Patience is a virtue, a “fruit of the Spirit,” as the apostle Paul put it. Like anything that produces fruit, you must tend to the source: nourish it, cultivate it, even prune it.
During the season of Advent, the church practices a form of waiting. We situate ourselves in the story of Israel, waiting for the coming Messiah, and we invoke the feelings of longing that come from a waiting longer than what is comfortable. It’s a way of cultivating the fruit of patience.
But there is another facet of waiting that we encounter in Advent: readiness. We not only wait with Israel, but we ready ourselves with the church for the return of the King. Patience is the passive fruit of Advent; readiness is the active fruit. “Be ready,” just tells us in Matthew 24, “because you will not know the hour.” Some may take this as a threat, assuming that the return of Christ means condemnation. To the contrary, this is a call to live a life of poised readiness, living in eager anticipation of the return of Christ the King.
It is no small irony that the season of Advent falls in the most hyperactive time of our society’s year! But the practice of waiting in Advent—waiting with Israel and waiting with the church—intends to shape us as people of patience and readiness. May we take this practice seriously, whether in our prayers or devotion, reading of Scripture or service to others, and seek to be patient and ready followers of the coming Christ!