"One of the many reasons we wait in Advent is to hone our skills of being joyfully and fully present now. After a month of doing this, Christmas Day can gain a depth and meaning that would otherwise fly past in a whirl of presents and mince pies," writes Paula Gooder, Canon Theologian of Birmingham Cathedral in England and a visiting lecturer at King's College. Waiting is a hard thing to do in our fast-paced world. There is constant pressure to speed things so we can do more. We get impatient when an elevator takes too long or someone doesn't email us back immediately. In addition, our consumer culture daily brainwashes us into the ideal of instant gratification. Anything that takes too long isn't worth getting.
All of this makes this devotional paperback quite refreshing and relevant to our times. Using Scripture readings and lessons, Gooder guides us through the four Sundays of Advent and provides us with meditations on Abraham and Sarah who are challenged to learn the fine art of waiting; the prophets and their expectation of God's intervention in the world; John the Baptist whose special mission was in a time of transition; and Mary whose entire life was centered around waiting. The author shares her own encounter with this skill while pregnant; she learned that it can be "a nurturing time, valuable in its own right."
Each of the Scriptural figures show us that waiting is an essential part of our spiritual journey; it's an expression of faith in a mysterious world where things do not always go our way or fit our timetables. Advent also propels us to celebrate the in-breaking of the kingdom of God through people and places that are unfamiliar to us. The season beckons us to an edgy kind of waiting that is anything but passive and requires us to stay awake and alert.
Advent is a workshop in which we experience both the agony and the glory of waiting for God. Gooder is convinced that God waits on us as well and together we spell out our days in a grammar of patience and hope.