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November 29, 2016

A Time of Holy Anticipation

candles in front of cross

You take it on faith.
You take it to the heart.
The waiting is the hardest part. 
   – Tom Petty

The Advent scriptures are full of lessons and imagery to help us with the realities of  preparation, expectation and anticipation of the inevitable. We cannot know the details of God’s plan. What we do know is that our God is compassionate and loving. If this were not so, we would not be given so many resources to prepare us for the terrible beauty of the end of times.  Advent comes when we need it most: in the final weeks of the dying year, and just before we face the dawn of a new beginning. And as always, and through it all, God is with us.

Fearfulness in Waiting

During the first two weeks of Advent, the Gospel of Matthew reminds us of the Lord’s warning: “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”  Jesus describes scenes that frighten us, as they should! Disaster almost always comes “out of the blue.” There is nothing worse than dreading the arrival of catastrophe – but if we know it is coming, we are foolish to ignore that reality. We always hope for the best, but if we are wise, we prepare against the worst. The good news is that we are given, in no uncertain terms, time to prepare.

Happy Waiting

We all know how it feels to anticipate the arrival of something long-desired, or the return of someone we love. The warm embrace of a lover.  A child’s first steps. This kind of waiting brings a delicious kind of fervent excitement, a nervous joy. With the wonders of ultrasound, the sex of a new baby is often known months before the child arrives. Yet some couples still choose to wait and be joyfully surprised.  Mary knew she would give birth to not just any son, but the Son of The Most High.

In a more innocent era of air travel, I remember how much my son and I loved to “people watch” at the airport. We would sit near an arrival gate and watch travelers deplaning, searching the crowd, then rushing into the arms of waiting loved ones as shouts of joy filled the noisy gate area.  After the endless seasons of time, imagine the deep yearning of our loving God who waits for us!

Jesus in Anticipation of His Own Return
And what must it be like for Jesus? He is fully human and fully divine, which means that he has been waiting a very long time to come back and take us home. We can use our imagination to contemplate his return from our own perspective. He told us that only the Father knows the day and the hour. Surely the greatest Love of all time is full of longing to be reunited with those he loves once again. When the time came for him to leave, Jesus took with him the memories of loving companionship with his closest friends. He was most at home among the poor, the outcast, the forsaken, the sick, and the sinner. As we wait for his return, let us use the time we have to be attentive to those he loved most.

Janèt Sullivan Whitaker
Janèt Sullivan Whitaker


Janèt Sullivan Whitaker, composer of beloved songs “In Every Age” and “Here at This Table,” is a dynamic cantor, pianist, arranger and percussionist. She presents workshops on cantor dynamics, lector formation, parish repertoire, song of the assembly and keyboard improvisation.

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Explore music for Advent from Janèt Sullivan Whitaker