It’s been a weird morning so far. The Met Office have a severe weather warning out for us right now, forecasting hail, sleet, snow and ice. Yet as I look out of the window it appears to be dry and sunny right now. Go figure. Of course the minute we leave our village, sod’s law being what it is, mother nature will dump a tonne of the white stuff on the hills between here and wherever our destination would be and ensure we wouldn’t be able to get home.
It being Sunday and all, we would normally have gone to church. Except we didn’t. Not just because of the fickle weather forecast, though. My other half is not at all well and even wandering around the house causes immense pain and discomfort at the moment, so a 25-mile journey to church would be well-nigh impossible even if it were perfect weather. He feels massively guilty of course, being him. He doesn’t even consider his admonishments to me for feeling similar guilt on previous Sundays when I was too ill to travel. “If I’m not allowed to feel guilty for making you miss church, you shouldn’t feel guilty for making me miss it” I said. He just spluttered and sneezed a few times in response.
It’s interesting, looking out on the sun lit, bedraggled winter garden whilst thinking about God and about worship. All that life, just hidden under the dark earth, waiting for the seasons to turn. It’s tempting when you see a black, empty border, to think that it’s dead and sterile. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Even later on today, if we do get snow and ice and hail etc. etc. etc., there still will be life under the blanket, waiting for it’s opportunity.
That’s what being ill is like if you want to go to church but have a 25-mile trip each way to get to your congregation of choice. You are waiting for your opportunity, waiting for the moment when the day, the time, the weather and above all your health and the health of your loved ones are just right to be able to make the journey. However it’s not as if God expects and demands such a journey. We are waiting for the opportunity to make it.
On the other hand, God knows the opportunity to acknowledge and worship is there at all times, and is waiting for us simply to take it.
Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for the weather to catch up with the forecast. Waiting for illness to run its course. Waiting for opportunities to do all sorts of things in the garden and around the house. Waiting for the early spring bulbs to begin to show their faces. Waiting, of course, for the festive season, for Christmas, for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. There is something special about learning to wait, learning what it means to be patient, to simply ‘be’. It’s not a lesson I find particularly easy – I’m a do-er, an act-er, a “forget-planning-and-get-on-with-it”-er.
Learning to wait is a vital element of being a Christian, being ill, having a family member who is ill, having a bad weather forecast that is likely to cut your village off, having a garden that appears dead and lifeless. I need to learn to just look, acknowledge, sit patiently and wait – things will happen, but in their own time and not mine.
But on the other hand I need to take opportunities as they present themselves. Rather than waiting to do things that aren’t going to happen any time soon, I need to seize the chance to enjoy the last rays of sunshine before they vanish behind the ugly grey cloud bank rolling across the sky. I need to be thankful we have a warm, comfortable home and that my partner can spend the time he needs in warmth and comfort to get well. And I need to listen to God, listen to the demand to wait expectantly, to think about what Advent should mean and to worship, here and now, just as I am.