Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Waiting Room - A Sermon

Giving birth is so different these days than it was when I was born. My father waited for all of us (but one who nearly came out in the parking lot -- he had to scrape a train barrier, then dumped Mom out at the door where they slapped her in a wheelchair and ran her inside. By the time he parked the car, my sister was born.) in the waiting room with all the other fathers. in the waiting room, they paced while the experienced dads told the new dads horror stories of sleepless nights and smelling diaper pales. Only their smiles told a story of joyful - if anxious - expectation.

They cared for each other as the new brotherhood of fatherhood. A temporary gathering in an eternal community.

We don’t do that anymore. I was present - participated in - the births of all my children. But we do sit in waiting rooms. And when we do, it’s often a time of anxiety. You’re at the doctor, dentist, therapist, mechanic. What you’re waiting for in other words is often something inevitable or necessary but perhaps frightening or unpleasant.

Still, you stay because to a degree you trust the physician or mechanic. If we didn’t trust, you’d run away.

Now, what do you do in the waiting room? Put your life on hold? Chew your fingers and worry that the doc might give you a shot or the mechanic might give you a shock (when you get the bill)?

I usually read whatever magazine is in front of me. Or watch the tube. Sometimes do a little work. Or I look at the people. Love to look at people. Get a sense of the wonderful variety, the wondrous make up of God’s creation.

But there are times when you talk - when you share your stories or offer a comforting word, maybe even form a temporary little community of those all waiting for the same thing. After all, we spend so much time cut off from each other, that the waiting room might be a perfect place to reconnect.

Advent is a waiting room, and we are in it. What we’re waiting for is the coming of Christ. We wait for the infant and we wait for the second coming -- whenever that will be and whatever it might look like. But in a sense this season of waiting merely reminds us that our entire life is a sort of waiting room, and we’ve been waiting for that coming for a very long time.

Jeremiah prophesies that the days are surely coming when the Lord will restore the fortunes of the house of David. This was in the 7th Century BC. Jesus in Luke’s Gospel tells the disciples to look for the signs of both upheaval and coming redemption. But he makes clear that the time will come unexpectedly. We don’t know when we’ll be called.

And that’s just it. We don’t know when that “end of times” will be and we don’t really know what to expect. We don’t know what will happen with 2012. More to the point, we don’t know what will happen when we die. And let’s face it, our own “end time” is much more likely to happen before the apocalypse (unless of course it’s 2012, but let’s assume it’s not) -- and it is assured.

So, we wait in trust if anxiety. But as with Dad, we don’t wait idly. We comfort, we share our stories. In a sense we form a temporary community called the church -- and there, we learn to live in God’s eternal value of love.

The waiting room is more than a place to kill time -- it is where life happens while the unknown but anticipated good looms before us. Welcome to our waiting room of Advent. It’s just like it was with Dad back then -- Just don’t hand out cigars, okay?