“In the First Advent, Christ the Lord comes into the world. In the next Advent, Christ the Lord comes as Judge of the world and of all the world’s thrones and pretenders, sovereignties and dominions, principalities and authorities, presidencies and regimes, in vindication of His Lordship and the reign of the Word of God in history. This is the truth, which the world hates, which biblical people bear and by which they live as the church in the world in the time between the two Advents.” —William Stringfellow (20th Century Lay Theologian and Christian Activist)
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.
Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.
Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! (James 5:7-10, The Message Bible)
PRAYER FOCUS: Waiting.
A woman’s car stalled in traffic. She opened the hood and searched in vain for the problem. Meanwhile the driver behind her began to lean on his horn. When she had enough, she walked back to his car and offered sweetly, “I don’t know what’s wrong with my car. But if you want to go look under the hood, I’ll be glad to stay here and honk for you…”
Why is it so hard for us to wait?
Everywhere we go we have to wait: in traffic, in stores, at the airport, for the doctor, for a baby, for the internet to come back up, for sermons to get over. With all of this waiting, you’d think we’d be better at it.
In Advent, we are waiting for the arrival of Jesus the Christ, the promised Messiah. In this week’s Lectionary Prayer we are confronted with our human desire to hurry and speed things up. We pray that God will “speedily help and deliver us”. Send us your mercy, Lord, and please hurry!
However, our Epistle from James exhorts us to patience as we wait for the Lord’s arrival. James says to be prepared, to remain steady and strong. He offers two examples for us to emulate: farmers and prophets.
Consider how they are alike. Both exhibit qualities of patience and forbearance. Both prepare the ground for what will be sown.
Once a farmer’s seeds go into his fields, there is nothing he can do to accelerate the harvest. The diligence of his care can affect the size and the quality of the harvest. But the farmer has no control over the speed at which his crops grow and ripen. He must wait for the results.
Like the farmer, the prophet must sow his message and then wait. The harvest timing of a prophet’s work is also in God’s hands. Prophets put up with a lot, and they don’t quit.
James also exhorts us not to complain about each other (ver. 9). It’s not that uncommon to find someone grumbling about the failure of a harvest, especially if the complainer hasn’t had his/her shoulder to the wheel.
Successful farmers work hard. They get up early and work long hours. They till the soil for weeks prior to planting, adding nutrients, amending it and adjusting its chemistry until it is optimal. After the fields are planted there’s more work to do tending them and preparing for the eventual harvest. Farmers are too busy staying “steady and strong” to complain much.
Why is it good for us to wait?
Because what God does in us while we wait is often as important as what it is we’re waiting for. And patience is perhaps the most underrated virtue.
It’s Monday Morning. In this season of Advent, let us prepare our hearts in prayer to receive the good things the Lord wants to grow in our lives. Like the farmer, let us add the nutrient of God’s Word. Amend it with reflection. And let us wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival.