When Andra and I were both in graduate school, we lived in Colorado. Coming from the Southeastern United States (Andra and I grew up in Alabama and Florida, respectively), the hardest adjustment was late winter, April and early May. By that point the luster of cold weather during the holidays had worn off and we just wanted to be able to go outside without a coat and gloves. To make matters worse it seemed like back home trees and flowers were in full bloom, while in Denver, Easter came and went with trees devoid of leaves and color. Then, just like that, we would look out the window one morning and the trees would be full of leaves and bulbs springing from the ground, as if someone had just snapped their fingers and the fullness of Spring came forth. Waiting for this day, though, was painstaking.
Our oldest daughter Anna Brook, then only four years old, found a creative way to wait. Almost daily, she would put on a swimsuit and goggles and go about her normal home routine of reading and playing. It was seemingly in defiance to the cold outside, a proclamation that
Spring had arrived, at least in her heart and mind. The bathing suit became her winter uniform, at least at home indoors. We laughed about it being the “Florida” coming out in her, but I realize now, she was teaching us a very important truth about waiting.
In the Bible, there is a lot of waiting. Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament speak of a “Day of the Lord”. This is not a final day of destruction, fear, and being left behind, as misrepresented by movies and grocery store novels. It is much more hopeful. The “Day of the Lord” is not the end of the world, but the day that God will come and set things right, a day when God’s love, compassion and justice will be established. It is when the brokenness and wounds of life will be bound up and healed, when enemies become friends and all of creation restored to God’s original intentions. It is nothing short of a new heaven and a new earth. Judgment is a part of it, for God will reveal our selfishness, injustice, and cruelty, but this judgment only paves the way for redemption.
The hard part about this beautiful vision, though, is the waiting. Throughout the Bible, and still today, we, God’s people, wait for this redemption, this day, to come in God’s time. It is difficult when God speaks and acts slower than we might prefer. That is what Advent is about, waiting to see what God is up to.
The question then becomes what to do in the waiting? The biblical answer is actually pretty simple: put on a bathing suit and goggles in winter, at least in a symbolic way. Live your life as if Spring has already arrived, as if God’s day of redemption is at hand. Live now as God will have you live in the future. Be loving. Be kind. Be just. Be caring. Have hope. Forgive.
That is how we wait, then, never giving up on God’s promise of hope, no matter how slow it is in coming, and living right now as it if is already here. Then, one day, we will wake up, look out the window, and leaves will be on the trees and flowers springing up from the earth.