This Advent has been a very rich one for me. The materials on the ‘O Antiphons’ from the Arundel and Brighton Diocese have been wonderful.
On our last Ordinariate group on 23rd December we had a meditation at the end of the session, which went over the themes for the last four weeks. The questions we considered were:
• What is it like waiting for the one who gives us life, who sustains us, who gives us breath?
• What is it like waiting for the one who frees us from captivity, who finds us when we are lost?
• What is it like waiting for the one who is light in our darkness?
• What is it like waiting for the one who will be with us in all we do?
At the end of meditating on each question I was aware of several things. Firstly, the indispensable nature of Christ. Life-breathing, life-giving, life-sustaining, quite simply I am nothing without my Creator. Secondly, in each there was a sense of longing. One of our adults talked in one session, about waiting, in the air raids shelters, with her aunt during the war. The dawn meant an end to the terror of the night. The longing I felt is one caught up with a desire to end fear, to feel free, to find a place of homecoming. These are longings that go to the core of my being.
I had a sense, by week 4, that the one we are waiting for is the one who is necessary for my very existence. The word that kept coming back to me was ‘vital.’ I am waiting for Christ who is vital for my being.
The animation played at the end of our final session seemed to turn everything on its head. Its focus was on God waiting for us. It seems strange that we have been waiting for God to come to us and here was something saying God had been waiting for us. Who has been waiting for whom? Yet the animation made it clear that God is waiting for his people to be ready for him to bring things to fruition in them. Maybe God is waiting not just for the right moment but for our ‘Yes’ in the same way he waited through history for Mary’s ‘Yes’. Maybe God’s waiting is about longing too- waiting for the ones he breathes life into and loves to recognise him and say ‘Yes’ to what he is asking of them. Maybe my longing for God is the response or the mirroring of God’s longing for humanity. Oh patient, patient Lord.
Towards the end of Advent I felt very unsettled; carol concerts, town decorations and cards arriving; it felt as if I was being pushed along too soon. I needed to remain in this place of waiting, of Advent to discover something of this. There was a right time in my heart. “Doing Christmas’ too soon snatches away what God wanted to give me this Advent.
On Christmas Eve I started to understand that the question “Who are we waiting for?” had been behind the other questions. Almost as if I was unaware of the story of Christmas, Christ had been hidden and the Advent material helped me discover or re-discover this ‘vital-ness’ of Christ. The end of Advent brought the re-discovery that it is Emmanuel, God-with-us that we are waiting for. There was a sense of growing relief. The God who longs to be with us, who has waited for over the years is almost here.
Almost imperceptibly there was a shift over Christmas Eve. The waiting and longing changed to relief and joy. Finally, finally he was here. This feeling had another side to it as well: the realisation that I was ready for some of the things God wants to do in me. The exhaustion, the sadness, the confusion brought by the last year, some of it moved. I felt a bit freer to respond to God. The beginning of Christmas-tide has brought something to birth in me, something that I can nurture and allow to grow. There is joy and an awareness of changes in me. If someone asked me to put a name to it, I couldn’t yet. But it is there. All the waiting has brought about celebration.