Dec. 19: The waiting game

Dec. 19: Third Tuesday of Advent

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard” (Lk 1:13).

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In the course of raising four children, I have spent a lot of time waiting. Not only waiting out the nine months of pregnancy but waiting in carpool lines, waiting for toddlers to fall asleep and teenagers to wake up, waiting for athletic or musical practices to end, waiting (in solidarity) for college acceptances or job offers. I have had boundless opportunity to practice faith, hope and patience, three virtues that are foundational to waiting (indeed, the Greek verbs for “wait” and “hope” are virtually interchangeable).

We sometimes lament that our prayers have not been answered, but sometimes we simply have not been waiting long enough. Elizabeth and Zechariah, “righteous in the eyes of God” and blameless practitioners of his commandments, had probably spent hours in prayer, fervently begging God to bless them with a child. As the years advanced, they waited, and no child came. Time seemed to have run out. In spite of what must have been a crushing, chronic disappointment, still they persevered in prayer and service to the Lord.

And then suddenly, without warning, it happened: “Once when Zechariah was serving as priest before God,” praying in the temple’s most sacred space and lingering in the presence of God, his plea was heard and his wife became pregnant. When we are engulfed in pain or peppered by doubt, waiting for God to speak into our lives takes a great deal of trust. We would do well to continue to place ourselves faithfully in his sacred presence, remembering that sometimes the answer to a prayer is neither a “no” nor a “yes” but a “not yet.”

Prayer: Lord of the created world, Imbue my waiting soul with hope in your word, faith in your love and patience in your wisdom. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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