I know that, technically, I’m not supposed to be listening to Christmas music yet. That may surprise you, but for liturgical purists who insist on observing the various seasons of the Church Calendar perfectly, Advent is not Christmas and should not be confused with Christmas. Advent has its own music, and we should be listening to and singing that in these four weeks. Christmas music is for the twelve days of Christmas that only begin on Christmas Day.
I understand the value of observing the seasons intentionally with a focus on each season’s unique message. And generally, I do tend to be quite focussed on each season. I love having these rhythms and different themes to guide my life and spirituality through the year. But, for me, Advent is different simply because its focus is on waiting.
Last week I wrote about the power of waiting as a spiritual practice. And I offered some guidelines for how we can practice waiting well. There are wonderful gifts when we make waiting an intentional facet of our spirituality.
There is one practice within the larger practice of waiting that I didn’t mention last week. It’s what I call ‘living into your waiting’. We live into our waiting when we begin to live now as if we have already received what we’re waiting for. This may sound absurd and contradictory, but it is an immensely powerful practice. And it’s why I start listening to Christmas music on Advent Sunday.
ACTIVELY WAITING FOR A NEW REALITY
During the days when apartheid oppressed the majority of the South African population, we longed for freedom. White people and black people couldn’t live in the same suburbs. Black people could come into white areas to work, but white people couldn’t go into the townships where most black people lived without a special permit. This legal division meant that it was almost impossible for black and white Christians to worship together.
But we were waiting for a new reality. We dreamed of the time when white and black families could be neighbours. When our children could go to school together. When we could worship together without fear. And in our waiting, many of us decided to live, as far as possible, as if there were no divisions between us. We found ways to worship together—often in secret. We nurtured friendships and found ways to be together—ignoring the requirement for permits. And in this active waiting, living as if we already had what we were waiting for, we found hope and strength to continue resisting the injustice that plagued our land.
Living into our waiting is active. It inspires our anticipation and it empowers our hope. And that makes it a deeply transforming practice. It doesn’t only apply to social change and big justice issues—although it is incredibly powerful in those domains. We can live into our waiting in any part of our lives—our relationships, our work, our spirituality, special events and seasons in our lives, and even our self-actualisation.
BRINGING THE FUTURE INTO THE PRESENT
So how can we be more intentional about living into our waiting? This can be a wonderful place to express our creativity. There is no shortage of ways to bring what we long for into our present experience. But here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- It begins with being very clear about what we hope for. It’s impossible to really live into our waiting if we don’t know what it is that we’re waiting for. When we can picture our desired future vividly we can begin to bring that picture to life in our present.
- With a clear picture we can then identify specific actions that we can take. The more detailed and clear our dream is the more we can bring some of those details into our daily routines and interactions. We can create rituals that connect us with our hopes. And we can identify the habits we would need if our desired future was a reality. Then we can begin to develop those habits in anticipation of receiving what we wait for.
- Finally, as we do all of this, we need to make sure that we cling to our longing and remember what we are waiting for. We can notice and enjoy the moments when we get a glimpse of the real fulfilment of our hopes. This may happen when living into our waiting becomes so effective that we feel as if we’ve already reached the future. Or it can be because subtle changes are beginning to happen that bring the first signs of the future into our present. When we embrace and celebrate these glimpses, our hope and perseverance are strengthened.
DO IT FOR YOURSELF
Have you ever ‘lived into your waiting?’ What was that experience like for you? What did you do to help you experience something of what you were waiting for? And if you haven’t ever done this before, what is your response to the idea? What difference would it make to your life to ‘live into your waiting’? How can you deepen your spiritual practice of waiting in this way?
I’d love to hear your stories of ‘living into your waiting’. And if you’re going to try this in some specific area of your life, please share your intention and how you’re going to do it. That’s what the comments are for!
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