Summary: It is hard to be excited about the Second Coming after over 200 years of waiting -- how then do we continue to wait in expectation?
College students today have it easy! My son is a student at the University of Central Florida and I have watched him register for classes.
The way he does it is to go to the computer, get on the Internet, and in 5 minutes he’s registered for all of his upcoming classes.
Back in my day, we had to stand in line and wait. And this was not a small line.
On the day of registration, we couldn’t be at home in front of a computer; we had to physically be on the college campus. We would get to the Administration Building very early and take a place in line. The line would stretch from the entrance of the door, around the building. Some students would take books to read. Some took chessboards. A few wise and learned students took folding chairs.
Slowly, inch by inch, the line would creep along until at last you would enter the doors of the Administration Building, only to find that inside there were MORE lines.
A line for student loans.
A line to pay last year’s delinquent bills.
A line to get a dormitory assignment.
A line to register for each class.
One year, the pre-med students of my school decided to make a comment about these long lines.
They broke into the Science Building and went into the biology lab where they stole – something.
Then they went to a store and had a special T-Shirt printed up.
They placed these items at the front door of the Administration Building so that when the registration process was to begin, and a college official opened the door, the first thing the college official saw was the item that had been stolen from the Science Building – a human skeleton wearing a newly printed T Shirt with the words, “Class of 1901.”
Thanks to the Internet, now everything has changed for students registering for college classes. But don’t worry – the world is still FULL of long lines.
There are still long lines at the bank.
Long lines at the check out line of the grocery store.
Long lines of traffic at the stop light.
By and large, we are part of a society that hates to wait.
Let’s not wait for the bank to open tomorrow morning, let’s go to the Automatic Teller Machine today, use our plastic card, punch in our Personal Identification Number, and withdraw the cash from the computer today.
Let’s not wait ten minutes to brew the coffee – let’s stick a cup in the microwave and get some instant coffee in seconds.
Now even though most of us do not like to wait, and while most of us submit to having to wait only with a lot of impatience, I suspect that it is also true that there are DIFFERENT ways in which we can wait.
In fact, much as we dislike waiting in general, sometimes waiting is not such a bad experience. In fact, waiting in expectation might very well energize us.
We have all known, in small ways, the energy an eagerly anticipated future can give to our actions in the present. The expectant parents who find joy in what would otherwise be a toil – assembling the crib, painting the nursery, practicing the pushing and breathing. Or take the residents of a town who eagerly wait for the visit of a famous celebrity or dignitary – the lawns are mowed, the sidewalks swept, the cracked windows are repaired at City Hall, the colorful banners are stretched between telephone poles on Main Street as they prepare to welcome someone important to their town.
Christmas itself has that kind of power. People brave crowds at the mall and face up to edgy store clerks.
Gifts are carefully chosen. Packages are wrapped. Ceramic nativity scenes are dusted and set in place, piece by piece.
Every action has meaning, because people are waiting, expectantly.
The sadness of our waiting is when we lose the excitement of anticipation to the dreariness of apathy.
We have all known the sense of loss and disappointment over a hoped-for-future that does not come quickly.
The husband and wife who try to conceive a child, in vain. Or again, plans are changed and the famous celebrity travels by another route, bypassing the town, leaving the once festive banner to droop in the rain.
Even Christmas day has its own measure of disappointment. The packages are opened, the gifts admired and put away. The tree comes down; the shepherds and angels are stored for another year, and the long-awaited day passes with a sense that nothing has happened.
We have waited, and waited, and nothing has happened.
And the way we have waited is with apathy.
In our Gospel lesson, the church is told to wait, and to watch – for something important is about to happen – Jesus is going to set up his Kingdom. And so, that first century church is able to stand on their tiptoes and watch the horizon of time in anticipation, waiting to see the dawn of a new day, when there will be justice, when crime will be eradicated, when the poor and oppressed will be freed, when the hungry will be fed and the sick healed.