Stephen Tomkins, of the Guardian newspaper in England, wrote a commentary in their online version, Guardian Unlimited. Read the whole thing. The title of the piece goes something like, “We need to fast a little to truly enjoy our feasts.” Yes, we do.
The commentary touches on a couple different things – commercialization of Christmas and Easter, Christians becoming upset that secular society is “paganizing” religious holidays, and the thing that really stuck me – the concept of waiting.
But what really interests me is how thoroughly our jumping the gun has inverted the shape of both Easter and Christmas. Both these feasts are traditionally preceded by fasts: the 40 days of Lent and the 24 of Advent. After such lengthy feats of abstinence – enforced by law in the Middle Ages – our ancestors were ready for some serious partying, which is why the Christmas holiday lasted 12 whole days till Epiphany. Easter, while shorter, could also be a riot of food and drink, music and dancing, drama and sport, and egg-related fun.
We, however, do it the other way round. We buy enough chocolate eggs and hot cross buns in Lent for there to be little special about Easter weekend. As for Advent, children get chocolate every morning in their calendars, and for adults December is the booziest month of the year. The fast has become the feast, and by the time we get to the 25th we’re about ready to call it a day.
Isn’t that so us? It’s an emblem of the contemporary west – we don’t do waiting. Where our parents used to save up for a big purchase, we buy first and save later. For our grandparents, a wedding night might well have been a first; it may find us in triple figures. Technology from microwaves to the internet and cashpoint machines encourages us to expect instant everything. So why leave decorations and cards till Christmas Eve (postal service aside) as they did?
Waiting. I am struck by this idea. I’ve said for a long time now that we need to be doin’ some more waitin’. NOW. Tomkins is right, I do think, we in the West can no longer wait for much of anything – relationships, wisdom, attention, rewards, material things, even God. We become impoverished, because perhaps the most significant things in life requiring waiting, patience, and sometimes silence. I can see this dynamic well entrenched in my own life, but part of my problem is over-commitment, being overly busy, and not being able to find the time to wait, to think, to listen for the still small voice of God in periods of silence.
Some examples of waiting from the Psalms:
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
It is to fight against our culture to wait. Waiting is a cultivated virtue – it doesn’t come quickly no matter how fast we want it. God’s way of things is not dependent on our time-tables or even linear time, and our perspective should be eternal.
Our children are drugged because they have learned well the lesson of immediacy. They cannot wait for anything, and because parents have bought into the cultural zeit-geist they are unwilling or unable to teach the virtue of waiting. It is easier to drug kids than to teach them self-discipline and to help them understand the advantages of holding off for a bit in order to gain the truly helpful, useful, and rewarding thing.
We carry cell-phones with us everywhere because we can no longer wait to contact someone over even the most trivial things. An adult was text-messaging during the sermon a few weeks ago.
Even within the Church â€“ particularly now in the Episcopal Church â€“ we expect things to happen yesterday. Our Church finds itself stuck in a “Cult of Change” were we cannot simply wait any longer. If anything is of great worth, change should occur only after a good period of consideration, deliberation, and the concerted seeking of the vision and will of God. We don’t seem to want to do the very difficult work necessary that requires times of waiting. When we demand change NOW, we loose all perspective and we jump blindly into a future where the consequences will be understood too late.
Wait. Wait. Simple wait upon the Lord. An eternal perspective. There is a time and place for everything.
Original Guardian link Via: Father Jakes Stops the World
Fr. Jake writes about Advent:
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word for “coming.” We speak of the return of Christ in three ways; past, present, and future. First, Advent refers to Christ coming as a child in a manger. Second, Advent refers to Christ repeatedly coming to us in Word and Sacrament and in the fellowship of the Church. Third, Advent is a time to prepare for Christ coming again at the end of time, the Second Coming. In many ways, we can see Advent as a season of darkness, as we wait for the light.