With Henri Nouwen, Learning to Practice Advent Waiting

November 29, 2011

The birth of Christ in our souls is for a purpose beyond ourselves:  it is because his manifestation in the world must be through us.  Every Christian is, as it were, part of the dust-laden air which shall radiate the glowing epiphany of God, catch and reflect his golden Light.  Ye are the light of the world- but only because you are enkindled, made radiant by the one Light of the world. Evelyn Underhill

Advent is a time when we learn how to wait for the Lord who comes in love. This implies that there is a proper way of waiting that characterizes Advent.  Henri Nouwen, in his essay “Waiting for God” invites us to look at Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary (in the Gospel of Luke) who exemplify this kind of waiting.  First, there is a sense of promise, says Nouwen.  Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah are promised children through whom God will do great things.  Thus, Zechariah and Mary, holding on to that promise, praise God, remembering that He is “full of mercy, bringing light to the dark... guiding our feet in the path of peace.”

We too must wait with a sense of promise, says Nouwen; because “we have already seen the footsteps of God.” We have tasted His goodness and want more (or want to want more).

So we wait confidently, hopefully; preparing ourselves by slowing down, clearing our minds and hearts to make more room for Jesus, which also means saying no to the chaos, hurry and materialism associated with “Christmas” in our culture.

The second thing that Nouwen points out is that this kind of waiting is active, not passive.  By active waiting, Nouwen means having confidence that what is going to happen is going to change and transform things and that we are eager and alert to be a part of it, to be present to it.

But one might ask, “What is going to happen?  Jesus has already come. What’s the big deal?”  As one Christian writer puts it, we are waiting and watching to see what might happen if we allow Jesus in more fully, more deeply; praying always, that He will “enable with perpetual light the dullness of our blinded sight.”

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2 Responses to 'With Henri Nouwen, Learning to Practice Advent Waiting'

  1. Daphen says:

    Thanks to you, I am always ihinktng about community in the context of the church. I know I am the better for it, even though I have not lived it out as consistently as I should. Thanks for the good post, and have a blessed Pentecost Sunday!

  2. Juliet Setian says:

    Thank you for reading, Daphen, and for commenting. I’m glad this post is helpful to you.