Why Wait? – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumLuke 21:34-36

One of the debates I see played out amongst my friends each year on social media is what I call the Christmas tree debate.  Just when is it acceptable to drag out your Christmas CDs, decorations, and set up your tree in front of the living room picture window?  We smile somewhat at this familiar conundrum but it seems each year the debate gets even more heated, perhaps one tier below our concerns about whether Russia interfered with our election process.  I read comments from friends who dread hearing ‘Sleigh Ride’ played ad nauseum in supermarkets and shopping malls beginning Thanksgiving Day.  And I don’t blame them.  When I was home to see my parents a few weeks ago, I shook my head in frustration when a local radio station advertised its seasonal format shift to Christmas music exactly one week prior to Thanksgiving!  Many of my friends had pictures of their trees on social media on Thanksgiving, one with the defiant comment:  “We put our tree up today!  Sorry, not sorry!” And who can blame them?  In a world that appears to be immersed in utter chaos, in a climate of hostility to those who think, believe, and act differently, who wouldn’t be parched and thirsting for some Christmas joy?

We live in a culture that doesn’t like to wait.  When we Americans see something we want, we just go out and get it.  If we don’t have the money saved up quite yet, we heed the invitation of the credit card companies who ask us, “Why wait when you can have it now?!”   But I would argue that this goes against the natural order of God’s creation.  Have you ever wondered when reading the beginning of Genesis why it took God seven days to create the universe?  When you think of the awesome power of God, the likes of whom we cannot even conceive in our finitude, it seems strange that creation wasn’t ready made the instant the ‘Big Bang’ occurred.  Yet everything in creation requires a time of gestation:  canyons took millions of years to be formed by rivers of water; the oldest known Sequoia tree is said to have taken 3,266 years to grow; babies are not ready to be delivered at conception, it takes nine months of being swaddled in the womb before being ready to be held in a mother’s loving arms.  I would say that it is a part of God’s order to wait.

In our gospel lesson today we hear Jesus say to be on guard and be alert which in its simplicity presumes a period of waiting and watching.  In the passage just preceding this one we hear Jesus tell a parable:  ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.’  I would say that we need the period of gestation to prepare.  Many new parents are probably grateful for a time of preparation for the coming of a newborn child:  time to buy clothes, time to prepare a nursery, time to learn about the changes this new being will bring to their lives.  And I would say this is why we need Advent, a period of waiting.  We need time to recollect, remember, and prepare room in our hearts for the Christ child who comes to us at Christmas, because Jesus changes everything!  And while we cannot foresee how God’s glory will work in our lives, we can make room for the new possibilities and hope that Jesus will bring into our lives.  Advent is about preparation and making room for the one who knows no boundary of time.

So I leave the question open to you as we spend time in retreat at the beginning of this Advent season?  What do you need to prepare for Jesus arrival?  Why wait?

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  1. Janice on December 6, 2022 at 05:50

    I notice that the original date on this fine message says ” 2017″ . I see that many of the replies are dated from 2020 during the COVID pandemic. And yet, your message about
    ” waiting” stands the test of time with it’s precision accuracy for us now in Advent 2022.
    Thank you for recycling….

    As I shared time last evening (2022) with bereaved,grieving folks who are preparing for, or better yet wondering how to prepare for their first Christmas after the death of a loved, this period of ” waiting” is high on the spectrum of needs; the need to allow oneself this space of quiet preparation without being sucked into the secular pandemonium is never greater. May we remember especially this Advent the fragility of the bereaved.

    • Dan on December 6, 2022 at 10:54

      Thank you, Janice, for your understanding. My wife lost her father when she was 20 and her younger brother only a few years ago, each shortly before Christmas. Christmas was always a difficult holiday for her. She died just four months ago. Now, after 56 years together, I find myself living alone as the holiday approaches. Our children live nearby, and we are working through the season together. It is difficult for each of us in our own way. God will see us through this season as God has in all the seasons past. Thanks be to God.
      Thanks to Brother Jim for sharing his message.

  2. Deb on December 16, 2020 at 20:41

    What timely words as we wait for the Christ child and all the joy and blessings that Christmas brings, yet to be experienced in a very different way this year. May we be open to receiving and sharing that love in new ways. May we wait patiently for the new directions God has for us as we journey through today’s challenges

  3. Frederick Adams on December 16, 2020 at 15:15

    Br. Jim.
    So very timely. Such a great connection with so much in my life right now. I don’t wish to iterate my woes, but suffice it to say, “You never know where the seed you sow will take sprout.” Thank you for sowing. I wait and join in the Advent wait.

  4. SusanMarie on December 16, 2020 at 08:18

    I read this sermon through pandemic-weary eyes. Waiting, watching, being alert, preparing (for what, I sometimes wonder). But I believe there is something on the other side of this trying time. In fact I’ve already seen the wonders and miracles of it, even as I have experienced loss of a loved one and know that many, many others have been through the same. If I remain willing — with an open heart and an open mind — looking always for how God is working within me and within others — I will continue to see miracles open within my own heart. I will be changed and transformed, which is what all challenges can bring to we who believe that God is with us in and through all things, in every moment and every trial. It is possible that the world will change during this time of gestation…if I have true hope and faith. We will come to the other side of this, as we always do, perhaps bruised and weary, perhaps with a sense of loss and/or actual loss. Life will never be the same. We will not go back to “normal.” But story after story in the Bible tells us that something has to change — even with great loss — so that we can be changed into something new and more beautiful. It’s the message of scripture. Am I — are we — ready and willing to be changed? For me, that is always the question I must answer, with God’s help!

  5. Peggy Todd on December 16, 2020 at 06:47

    As I await the birth of our first great grandchild, your words and wisdom this morning still my yearning heart. We cannot travel to see the birth of this beautiful baby boy. The pandemic put the brakes on our daily lives. Your words this morning are a reminder that waiting, reflecting are all part of God’s plan and creation. I know that God sends our love to our granddaughter as she and her husband are waiting. They are been preparing and planning. Only a few more weeks for the baby to arrive and bring joy and hope. The timing could not be better for your words this morning. Thank you God for the birth of the baby Jesus…and thank you Brother Jim! Merry Christmas

  6. Janie McNew on December 18, 2019 at 21:24

    Great message as usual. Merry Christmas!

  7. Jeanne DeFazio on December 18, 2019 at 08:44

    This is Christmas. Your message if Christmas spirit resonates with the need we all have for joy, peace and hope for salvation. Sharing this today:

    In a world that appears to be immersed in utter chaos, in a climate of hostility to those who think, believe, and act differently, who wouldn’t be parched and thirsting for some Christmas joy?

  8. S.R.E. on December 8, 2017 at 03:18

    Hello Br. Jim,

    Here in Vienna, Austria I’ve been feeling grateful that we still celebrate Advent (or Saint Nicholas or quiet days like today, the Immaculate Conception, when I can have my girls home and just rest). At the same time, we don’t have Thanksgiving to stave off the introduction of Christmas candies and decorations at the stores. And the other day I couldn’t believe that my grocery store already had a display of New Year’s confections (pigs and four-leaf clovers and other New Year good luck charms)!
    Still, our family resists the flow and puts up a tree on about the 23rd. This came about naturally from our family’s early years in the former Soviet Union, where trees weren’t even available until then because Christmas was on the 31st. I’m so grateful for our time there because I was in dire need of learning how to wait, how to create a family rhythm; I needed to be forced!
    I’m also grateful for my French husband who has no clue about consumer credit (though it has now arrived in Europe). We have none; we buy only when we can. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is. Every purchase is deliberate and planned. I bought a side table last year with my Christmas money; this year I’m finally purchasing the table lamp to sit on top of it. Can you imagine how much I researched this table lamp??
    Thank you so much, Br. Jim, for your sermons; I enjoy them immensely! I hope your Advent — and all of the brothers’ — is everything you wish it to be.

    • miriam schmer on December 16, 2020 at 09:01


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