This is the ultimate prayer, the final longing that we find rising out of the scriptures. And this longing for the coming of the Lord is encrusted in every human heart. In fact all of creation joins this chorus of waiting and longing (Romans 8:19-23). And there is a wisdom in this waiting for we have this assurance that “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:31). The Word promises us that the Lord will neither turn away nor disappoint those who trust in Him and wait on Him.
“Wait for the Lord!” (Ps 27:14)
The season of advent is a blessed time of waiting for the Lord. Advent reminds us of the long waiting of the people of God for the promise of the Saviour to be fulfilled. In fact the whole spiritual mood of the Old Testament is an urgent longing for the coming of the Saviour. Isaiah gives expression to this longing as he prophesies of how the heavens shall rain down a Saviour “When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors He will send them a saviour, and will defend and deliver them” (Is 19:20)
“You are my servant… in whom I will be glorified” (Is 49:3)
What waiting means for us personally is explained best by the response of St Joseph to the worst crisis of his life. When he was betrothed to Mary she was found to be with child. He was deeply disturbed and confused. The easy solution for him would have been to report this to the synagogue. Mary would have been stoned to death according to the prescription of the law. He could have then gone ahead with his life. However he waited upon God to know what God had to say about his predicament. And that is when the angel came with the great revelation of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20,21). Joseph by his decision to wait to know God’s will, became a most crucial partner for God in the history of salvation.Salvation has been accomplished by those who agreed to wait on God. The event of the birth of Christ showcases for us different people who were waiting in accordance with God’s will: “Simeon… righteous and devout was waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25). Anna too waited and “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Lk 2:37). The first to offer worship the Lord were “the shepherds who had been out in the field, keeping watch” (Lk 2:8). The star flashed brightly across the sky. Many looked up and were astonished. But the magi who had been waiting for the manifestation of salvation understood the significance and followed the star to see the face of God.
This sacred season above all showcases that at the heart of Christmas is great love as that of Mother Mary waited for the birth of her Son. The heart of waiting is the trust of love. The gospels clearly lay out for us that the salvation event began with Mother Mary’s fiat: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). She committed herself to God as a servant waiting to know His will and ready to do it. This commitment she lived out right from Nazareth to Calvary. In the many moments of crisis and darkness that came up along this journey, though she did not understand “she kept all these things in heart” and transformed these into holy moments of waiting (Lk 2:51).
This waiting on God generates a great inner strength necessary for us to allow God to take charge over adverse situations. When Mother Mary and Joseph reached Bethlehem at that trying hour of childbirth, when all the doors were shut on them, they were not overwhelmed by frustration or fear, but patiently trusted for God to work all things according to His perfect and amazing plan.
When temptation came to Eve, she refused to wait. Satan managed to sow the seed of doubt about God’s love. Eve did not go to God and have the darkness dispelled. And this brought on thick clouds of darkness upon all of mankind.
It was the courage of the faith of the second Eve who dared to wait upon the Lord that ushered in the light of Christ to dispel the curse of darkness. Hence the exclamation of Elizabeth “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45).
Jesus Himself waited at Gethsemane. When He had to enter that most precious moment of salvation with his suffering and death, He had to wait in prayer to move from His own agony to a realisation of God’s will for glory that would prevail over the present passing circumstances.
Salvation could begin because of the Mother’s commitment to God and could reach its culmination because of the Son’s prayerful waiting.