Advent and waiting

This morning we looked at the concept of waiting for and waiting upon, influenced by a wonderful Advent read – see image below – and Lectio 365 recently.

After a moment of stilling ourselves and opening liturgy, we walked with words from Carys Walsh and R S Thomas and returned to share our responses to them. This is what we read:

Frequencies of God – Walking through Advent with R S Thomas – Carys Walsh

The qualities of waiting in Advent are different to that of Lent. We look forward to the incarnation, that has, paradoxically, already happened, as well as to Christ’s coming again, but also to God coming to us now – it is a time of hope with the possibility of joy.

Walsh suggests that it is also a time to ‘recognise those ways in which the heart’s muscle closes and atrophies in the busyness of the year, or in the familiarity of faith forged in a lifetime’s patterning but made almost invisible, through its ubiquity.’

Advent is a time of an ‘expectant waiting with hearts open, hopeful of a richer encounter with God, and uncertain of what this might mean for us. This kind of waiting… may take the whole season of Advent to arrive at a kind of waiting that is more than “waiting for”, that is also a “waiting upon”… This kind of attentive, surrendered waiting may also be the work of a lifetime. Michael Ramsey (the Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-74) is said to have declared that he prayed for two minutes – “but it takes me twenty-eight minutes to get there”.

‘Our experience of waiting may be transformed by the Advent journey, as waiting itself becomes a place of God’s action, and the apparent emptiness in which we sit hums with the presence of God upon whom we wait… This may be a time of learning the contours of waiting, and recognising that as we put ourselves in the way of God, we begin to see in the dark, and discover a presence so profound that we cannot escape it. And as we focus on God’s presence, we may notice the breath of God who breathes in and through us.’

In a country church – R S Thomas

To one kneeling down no word came,

Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips

Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;

Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,

Bats not angels, in the high roof.

Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,

And saw love in a dark crown

Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree

Golden with the fruit of a man’s body.

After this we had a reading from the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel where Hannah returns with a thank offering after giving birth to Samuel. Two weeks ago the commentator on Lectio 365 wrote:

‘When I experience an answer to prayer, I have a head-on encounter with the reality of God in my life. No matter what other difficulties I face, these miraculous moments act as markers for me, securing my faith. They are reminders that God is powerful, that he loves me and that he will look after me’ (Lectio 365)

So we considered the questions:

What answers to prayers do I look back to that secure my faith?

Is there a thank offering I could make for an answer to prayer?

What do I need to hear from this story about waiting today?

We shared names and situations where people are waiting, in limbo, powerless, yearning and prayed for them:

For those living in fear, under attack or displaced in Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, South Sudan, Yemen and so many other places

Jesus be close

For those living as refugees in foreign lands having left loved ones or all they had held dear

Jesus comfort and restore

For those harried by injustice and threat

Jesus save

For those whose marriages or home lives are the source of distress and pain

Jesus help

For those suffering grief and loss

Jesus heal

For those struggling with mental health

Jesus come to them

For those awaiting medical findings, who are afraid

Jesus en-courage

For those dependent on others to bring justice and safety

Jesus advocate

For ourselves with the mission to be salt and light and good-news-bearers

Jesus inspire

Amen Amen Amen

Then we share bread and wine, taking a time to be still, to wait upon God before closing by pointing to one another, as we often do, conferring blessing on one another with these words:

So, in our waiting and yearning and trusting and in gratitude, may the blessing of God, Mother, lover and friend, be upon you and you and you and…