By Rev. John Paul Erickson

Waiting…. Few of us like to do it. What is more, in a world of instant communication, fast food, and easy intercontinental travel, most of us don’t have to wait for much. Of course, in some areas of life, indeed, perhaps the most important areas, waiting obstinately remains a critical part of our experience – we wait for test results; we wait for our loved ones to come home from school or the battlefield; we wait for the birth of a child.

This side of the veil, that is, here on earth, waiting remains one of the fundamental actions of the believer. In their captivity and exile, the Jewish people waited for the coming of the Messiah. And, in the fullness of time, He did come in the Person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. And now, like the Hebrews did of old, we Christians wait for the triumphant return of the King. In the words spoken at every Holy Mass, “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” With the eyes of faith, we know that Jesus Christ has encountered his passion and death and has been raised from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. But Christ will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.  Every Christian is called to wait for that inevitable, final day; to wait and to be ready by living lives of prayerful love and mercy.

But it is not only judgment day that we wait for as Christians. We wait for the coming of God today, as we offer our desperate prayers to our Father who can indeed seem so very distant. The beautiful, haunting words of the “O antiphons,” sung by the Church in the final days of Advent, echo the drama of waiting that is the Christian’s state.

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation…

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death…

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God…

Even as we acknowledge the goodness and paternal love of God, we plead with Him to hear our prayer, to touch the lives of those we care about, and to bring about that healing and peace in the world that only the True and Living God can effect. The supremely hopeful message of Advent and Christmas is that the God we call out to in prayer does hear us, He does care for us, and He will save us.

Advent is a time of quiet, of reflection, and of prayerful meditation on the promises of God, not the least of which is His triumphant return at the end of time. But it is also a time to reflect on the fidelity of God, and the blessed assurance that has been given to those who persevere in the ways of love, an assurance that is rooted in the tender love of God for His people.

“Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See upon the palms of my hands I have written your name…”  (Isaiah 49:14-16)