The Slow Work of Advent
Rev. Michaele LaVigne
As I’ve read, prayed, and walked through Advent the last three weeks, the words of two saints have been keeping me company:
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.”
– Charles Wesley
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time.”
– Prayer of Theillhard de Chardin
And here’s my confession: I want Jesus to come... but I don’t want to wait for him. I want things made right, I want people set free, I want rest for all of us – right away.
But in Advent we do not celebrate the God who comes to us on our schedule, conforming to our expectations. In Advent we recognize that God comes to us not in the way or timeline that we expect, but in the way that we need.
I find myself in the impatience Theillhard de Chardin refers to: often feeling that God moves at a snail’s pace, wanting to skip over the middle stuff, wanting to get to the part where everything is as it should be, and I am comfortable. The truth is, though, that if I had things my way nothing good would really be accomplished. The best things – forming new life, making people whole, the remaking of the world – cannot be rushed.
Jesus did not magically appear as a grown adult ready to take over the world. He was born, which means there was a nine-month gestational period during which he grew from a handful of cells into a tiny human body. Then there was another thirty-year long gestational period before his ministry began. And even then he didn’t institute authoritarian rule and make everyone and everything bend to his will. But we who walk in his way and are empowered by his spirit have experienced the God who comes to us. He has indeed freed us from fear and sin, and we certainly do find our rest in him.
Yet we still find ourselves waiting for all things to be made right. And I don’t like to wait. So when I become impatient I find myself needing to trust in the slow work of God. Trusting that he is doing things differently than I would do it. Trusting that he is the one guiding me and all of creation through the uncomfortable stages of instability into the good and beautiful future he is creating.
And so here is my Advent prayer for me, for you, for all of us:
May you not be distracted or impatient while you wait.
May you trust and rejoice in God’s slow work.
May you be aware of all the ways in which the long expected Jesus is coming even now.
And may you be filled with gratitude and joy as you witness his miraculous arrivals.