My grandparents were born and raised in Liverpool, England. They met, fell in love and decided to come to Canada. My grandfather, still a young man, came alone at first, travelling by boat, then train to the end of the tracks. He bought a horse and cart and headed northwest to the property he had chosen.
It was more than a year before his bride-to-be followed him; time enough to build a house and plant a crop. More than time enough for both of them to practise patience.
Then followed the years of farming and raising children. The life of the farmer is a life of waiting and hoping. Waiting for the last of the snow to melt off, waiting for the crops to sprout, for the rains to come, for the warmth of harvest.
And always the hoping - hoping that this year it will all work out, hoping the promise of spring becomes the abundance of fall, hoping that next year will be better.
‘The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth.’
So by the time the war came, Grannie and Grandpa were well versed in the struggle and the opportunity of living with waiting, trying to live well even in uncertainty.
I'm not sure how well that prepared them for the trial of waiting for a son to return from war, for the persistent hope required after the telegram saying he was missing in action and during the long months knowing he was in a prisoner of war camp.
The good news is that he did return to be a good husband, father and farmer himself. But I reflect on their lives now, in this season of Advent, because of the radical difference between the place that waiting had in their lives versus life today for most of us in this part of the world.
We are programmed to expect that we will have what we want, and quickly. We are, for the most part, disconnected from the seasonal cycles of life that would make us wait for the first fresh greens of spring to eat, or the apples at harvest. Both are available all the time in the store.
We don't have to wait to be in touch with those who are not with us; our technology sees to that. Our culture tells us it is unnecessary to wait sexually; instead we just need to keep sex "safe."
So then we are faced with this radical waiting and hope that the Scriptures this Sunday, and Advent in its whole, presents to us. God's promise, through Isaiah, is that the desert will be transformed into abundance and that God's redemption will as surely transform the brokenness in our human existence. The deaf will hear, the blind will see, the lame will leap for joy.
Jesus tells John's disciples that indeed he is the one who was to come to bring that redemption. And the blind do see.
Yet, at the same time that we live with the foretaste of that transformation, we must live with patience for its fulfillment. Life today doesn't prepare us well for that challenge. We look at the "deserts" in our world today and it's easy to be disheartened.
Advent reminds us, helps us learn how to strengthen weary knees, not to lose heart. We must learn to wait with hope, so that we are ready for the outpouring of the glory of God.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)