What can Advent teach us about waiting? First of all, we who are rich must open our eyes to the poor, who have no option but to wait. We must share their patient vigil as they wait for a more just world, and their struggle to bring it about. We struggle to diminish the length of their waiting.
Why does the Lord delay? Why do the poor still have to go on crying out for justice, 2000 years after the coming of Christ? Why does not God bring about a world in which all of humanity may flourish now?
We do not know the answer to that, but at the very least we must live with the urgency of the question. Perhaps one tiny element of a response is in deepening our understanding of how God comes. Our God is not a powerful, celestial superman. The coming of God is not like the cavalry galloping to our rescue. God comes from within, in our deepest interiority.
During Advent, we practise patience as we wait and watch for the coming of the Lord. Like midwives gathered around the bed, we await the birth. But God’s coming was not just the birth of a child; it was the coming of a word. One might even say that it was the coming of a language.
It needed hundreds of years for English to evolve to the point at which Shakespeare might write Hamlet. The language had to be formed by poets and lawyers, preachers, philosophers and peasants, by nurses and gravediggers, before it was ready. In a similar way, it needed thousands of years before there was a language in which God’s word could be spoken in the form of Jesus. We needed all those experiences of liberation and exile, of the building and demolition of kingdoms. We needed innumerable prophets and scribes and poets, struggling to find words before Jesus could be born as the Word. The Word of God does not come down from heaven like a celestial Esperanto. It wells up from within human language.
Waiting for the coming of God is not, then, mere passivity. We do not only wait with the poor, we share their struggles. We must be attentive to the experience of the poor, so that together we gestate a language in which their hopes may find expression. Then indeed we may have words into which the Word of God may come and find a home.
Extracted from “Just One Year”, by Timothy Radcliffe OP