In the second reading James is encouraging the Christian community to be patient as they wait for the coming of the Lord. In the early years of the church many thought that Jesus would return to relieve the sufferings of his followers and vindicate their faith in him and all would be well. In time they came to see this was unrealistic and the how and when of Jesus’ coming is known to God alone.
That simple piece of advice of James ‘be patient’ is an important bit of advice for all of us at this frenetic time of the year. I read these powerful, probing words just recently:
“We humans will always be in Advent. A year’s Christmas may come, regeneration may occur, but at the core of our being is an endless waiting. “Come, Lord Jesus” is a song not only for December. It is a refrain for our entire lives, all our days.
”For the world and all its life is only Advent. It is a creation unfinished, a groaning for another wondrous coming, a second birth. Our final happiness and healing, rich or poor, will not be quarried here. We who believe that heaven once came down to earth in Jesus also believe that every grace of the earth will be lifted to undying life by our God made flesh.”
Be patient, be patient. Our patience will be tested these coming weeks as we get ready to celebrate Christmas. We need to be patient when we are constantly questioned by anxious, impatient children, ‘when will Santa get here?’
James wisely uses the example of the farmer. He plants the seeds and from then on it is out of his hands. He patiently waits for the spring rains and the fall rains. If they don’t come there is nothing he can do about it – he just waits and hopes for a harvest so he can feed his family. The universe is unfolding as it should.
We live in a time of instantcy, if that’s a word. We must have instant communication: we have a cell phone, or ipod or a blackberry. We must have whatever it takes to be available to one another 24/7. We want everything to happen ‘now’. Our time is precious, our time is important so we resent the time it takes to get a doctor’s appointment, we’re upset when we have long waits in a hospital emergency room we demand to be seen right away. We wonder why we have to wait so long for those blood tests to come back. Patience!
We’re rushing to an appointment, we know we are late and that blessed red light just won’t turn green or that car ahead of us has to wait to make a right hand turn while those sluggish pedestrians take their time crossing the street. Just great! Patience.
The shopping plaza is a real test of patience as we try to find a parking spot and just when we find one someone else gets to it first and it’s not the Hail Mary we say. We go into a major store and look in vain for a salesperson to help us. We get into an express line at Loblaw’s or Longo’s and we wait and wait as a struggling senior is trying to get her arthritic fingers around that quarter at the bottom of her change purse. It’s a grand time of year. Patience.
I don’t know whether or not you saw that poster that was out years ago of a roughed up, unkempt little guy with a band aid on forehead and the hint of a black eye and he’s saying, ‘Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet.’
Don’t we get impatient with ourselves as we discover that, for all our efforts and good intentions we still have a short fuse and a sharp, caustic tongue when things don’t go our way? Do we find ourselves getting annoyed with ourselves because we can’t be still and pray and our thoughts are going off in a thousand different directions? Are we disappointed with ourselves when we find we aren’t as broadminded and accepting of others as we thought we were, after making a hurtful racist or sexist remark? Isn’t it disappointing when we have to face the hard truth that we are still self-centered, self-indulgent, self-opinionated? Have you ever found yourself saying, ‘Lord make me patient, now’?
In this season of Advent we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we patiently face the fact that all of our lives are an Advent, and at the core of our being is an endless waiting. Come Lord Jesus is a song not only for December, it is a refrain for our entire lives, may we never cease singing it.