I am confident of this: that the one who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
As a parent, I often impatiently wait for the next stage in my children’s lives. As in, I can’t wait until they are peeing in a potty rather than on the carpet or I can’t wait until they move beyond the thrashing-on-the-floor-tantrum stage! In other words, I can’t wait until they grow up. Parents of older children tell me to cherish every stage. I sometimes wonder if their memories are faulty!
The season of Advent is filled with exhortations to wait. We remember the waiting for the coming day of the promised Messiah. We practice the discipline of waiting for the day of Jesus Christ. We seek to live into the holy rhythms of Kairos time, waiting for the right time of God’s appearing, rather than Chronos time, a calendar of our own agenda.
The Advent text of Isaiah 40:3-5 repeated by John the Baptist speaks of “preparing the way of the Lord” and “making straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Our journey of transformation into mature Christian adults sometimes feels like a never ending highway construction project. We all know the joy of waiting through road projects: first there is anticipation as road signs appear, indicating that one can expect traffic delays beginning on a certain date. Then lanes are diverted, flashing lights are hung, rough pavement develops, and we endure months and months of traffic jams, bumpy roads, and alternate routes. It is a laborious process frequently overrunning the initial deadline, costing many resources and much patience.
What if we were to view our own lives and our life as a faith community as a continual road construction project? I sometimes wonder if all of our churches should have a large yellow sign at the entrance reading: Caution: Never Ending Reconstruction Work Ahead. This holy mess is church. Writer Ed Cyzewski recently tweeted: “That’s church. Just gotta pick which HOT MESS is your favorite.”
I confess that I get impatient with the never-ending work of transformation in the church; I tire of waiting for more of Christ to be revealed in us. Everywhere I look, I see places that have yet to experience the salvation and peace of God: divisions in the body yet to be reconciled; relationships yet to be mended; forgiveness yet to be released; welcome yet to be extended; brokenness yet to be healed; addictions yet to be kicked.
Sometimes I fear that God will lose patience with me. I am prone to wander. I am prone to doubt. I am prone to move forward without acknowledging God’s presence. I am like that road rebuilding project which has a completion date that keeps on getting delayed. Yet we are to regard God’s patience with us as our saving grace. Yes, the work is slow, but we are invited to continue to imagine a different future.
The writer of Philippians imagined with a long-term view: “I am confident of this: that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” This involves a patient and faithful waiting. In view of God’s grand salvation story, we have the courage to embark on the long road of repentance and change where we tear up the old and lay down the new. At the same time, knowledge of the tender mercies of our God gives us the grace to cherish and accept each other today, even in our unfinished state.
In this time of waiting and anticipation, we do know what is required of us: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God and one another. If we say that we can wait with one another today, then can we wait with one another tomorrow, and the day after, and the next? And, if this is so, can we wait with one another until the day of Jesus?
As we wait together, this is my hope and prayer:
“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79