Last week’s newsletter contained an article written by Rev. Loren McGrail of the United Church of Christ Global Ministries. God’s light, we read, is able to break into the most intransigent places, bringing transformation out of seemingly hopeless situations. This week we share a reflection from another Global Ministry partner, Rev. Mark Behle, who writes from Lesotho, Africa. In a place where few things happen quickly, and waiting is a way of life, the meaning of Advent comes into focus in a new way.
“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130: 5-6)
Waiting. In Lesotho there are many opportunities for doing a lot of waiting. One of them occurs at the often busy Maseru border crossing between Lesotho and South Africa. Standing ina queue for well over an hour to have your passport stamped is nothing unusual. Experience has taught me to always carry some reading material. The same thing applies at government offices, whether it is renewing your driving license, paying for your annual car registration fee, checking on a residence or work permit or some other piece of paper you need. But in all of the above things that I find myself waiting for, the waiting does not end with joy and wonder. The anticipation isn’t something that makes your heart go aflutter! When the deed is finally accomplished, there’s just a sigh of relief and words like, “I’m sure glad that’s over!”
Lately, though, I’ve had something to do where the waiting, I hope and pray, will pay off with more than a sigh of relief. It is the school building project that I’ve been working on with the Education Office of the Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC)… Here is a photo (below) from the pitso (community meeting) we held at the school in September. Speaking of waiting, the people of Bolahla have been waiting years for a new school…
Praise be to God, we are now no longer waiting for the project to start! The foundations were dug in November and materials were scheduled to have started moving to the site then, too. And then torrential rains came, and so we find ourselves waiting once again…
Fortunately, I think I’ve learned to deal with the waiting. I recently was blessed to read an article about Paul’s “thorn” (see II Corinthians 12:1-10). Instead of speculating about the nature of his “thorn”, the author focused on the purpose of it, which was to make Paul see that the power in his ministry came from God, not him. That hit home with me. I’ve now taken all the waiting in this project as a welcomed “thorn” to help me understand that this is not my project or even that of the LEC. It is God’s project and when that day comes to celebrate the opening of the new school (in 2013, God willing), all glory and praise will be God’s.
Now in early December we are waiting for Christmas. While the secular world has been shouting, “It’s Christmas!” since Thanksgiving (or even before), the church leads us through Advent. I’m thinking that Advent is a welcomed “thorn” to remind us that the power of Christmas is not our own. The power of Christmas is certainly not found in the shopping malls or the hustle and bustle of seasonal activities. Without proper reflection and preparation, Christmas loses its real power. It simply becomes an event where on the 26th we sigh with relief and say, “Well, that’s over for another year!”
The true joy of Christmas comes in having taken time to prepare for it, to consider the fullness of God’s plan which begins with the birth of the Savior Jesus. Give Advent its due: wait, prepare, reflect, be wonder-filled and dare to be changed, for God, indeed, is with us!
“O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is
unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will
redeem Israel from all their sins.” (Psalm 130:7-8)
May the joy of Jesus’ presence fill your heart this Advent and Christmas!