TRIMBLE: Advent: Waiting, patience and hope

We’re in the midst of a worldwide health pandemic, which most human beings today have never before witnessed.

As of this writing, more than 60 million people have contracted the coronavirus, and 1.5 million people have died from it.

This year has broken records in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes.

US wildfires have burned close to 9 million acres of land. The Cedars of Lebanon have also burned to the ground.

2020 will go down as the warmest year for the Earth’s surface since records were kept in the mid-1800s.

Remember Y2K? When the fear of the calendar’s turning from 1999 to 2000 would wreak havoc on the people of this planet, because that one glitch might not have been properly prepared?

The ancient Mayan calendar interpreted the end of life in December 2012.

A possible asteroid was to hit the Earth before Election Day. It seems like it’s the end of the world as we know it.

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darks as night and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven and the powers in heaven will shake (Mark 13:24-25).”

The cosmic literature in the Holy Bible dreams a vast swath of signs and portents on what will happen in the future, and when it will happen, and who will be saved and who will be damned. This is nothing new.

Rabbi Jesus isn’t sharing a modern revelation — he’s harkening back to Isaiah, Daniel and the ancient prophets of his tradition that spoke of such things in order that people would prepare themselves for the Day of the Lord.

And throughout the generations, we humans have taken it upon ourselves to figure out God’s plan.

Human beings are fickle creatures by nature. We’re never totally satisfied with the status quo, as much as we’d like to fool ourselves that it’s just fine, thank you very much.

We’re looking for the next thing. We’re anticipating what’s around the corner, that it could be something better than this.

We wish to predict the future, but seldom learn lessons from the past.

We’re anxious and jittery and restless and caffeinated.

We seem to celebrate filling up our time, our spaces, our being — yet we tend to throw patience under the bus. We want it now. We want it our way. And we scoff at having to wait.

Waiting seems antithetical to our curious spirit. Patience seems anathema to our core of right now. And hope seems a relic of a forgotten and thrown-away faith.

In the Anglican tradition, though, Scripture, tradition and reason tell us otherwise.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, the redeemer of the world, doesn’t know when the Day of the Lord will come.

Only God knows.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

For Christians, our hope lies in the very act of waiting, the very essence of patience.

During this season of Advent, there’s a big difference between waiting for Christmas and waiting for the Christ.

We know when Christmas will arrive. We can plot that on our calendars, clocks and calculators.

We know what it will be like when it comes, as different as it might seem to be this year.

But waiting for Christ to come — or for Christ to come again — requires something more, an expectant watchfulness, because we never know when He will appear. And, so, with waiting and patience, we find our hope. In Christ, already and not yet, we find our hope.

Father Jim Trimble is priest-in-charge at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester. He can be reached at fatherjim.emmanuel@gmail.com