In the Season of Advent, 2008
"Waiting on Cloud Peak"
The hills and the mountains will be singing praise to God.
Every tree in the forest will be clapping its hands.
The Lord will come and rule forever. Alleluia. (Monastic Liturgy)
I greet you in these days as Advent hope bends surely toward fulfillment. Christmas is coming and our waiting is almost over.
I recall an experience of waiting. When our son was in college I thought one way to maintain contact was to invite him to go backpacking in the summer. For a number of years I accompanied him and several twenty-something friends on backpack and climbing trips in the mountain west. At fifty-something myself, I claimed a motto: "I can't keep up, but I can catch up." It served me well.
One year our goal was to climb Cloud Peak in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. At 13, 167 feet, it's not a technical climb but a worthy adventure nonetheless. Four young guys and this old guy drove out nonstop and the next morning we hit the trail into the mountains. We didn't take time for any acclimatization. On the second day we were moving to higher altitudes and above 11,500 feet my son began to suffer.
He couldn't hold anything down, even water. I was worried about dehydration. Things weren't going well. At one point I asked him to let me carry his pack along with my own. That's hard for a 20 year old son. His friends were already an hour ahead of us, and now his old dad was asking to carry his pack. He reluctantly agreed, but the deal we made was that I would go on ahead and let him move at his own pace. I did, but I worried every step of the way.
Several hours later I was only 100 feet below the summit, and he was nowhere in sight. I could hear the voices of the other guys on top. I sat down on a rock for a few moments. What was I going to do? This climb had been a dream of mine, and I was only a few easy steps from the top. I was 52 years old and didn't know when or if I'd have another chance at the peak. He was young and could come back again and again, if he didn't make it this day.
On the other hand, we had set out together, and this was a moment I wanted to share with him. I decided that I would not go to the top and sign the register without him, so I sat there and had something to eat, and took a little nap. I was about to go down when he came around some boulders, trudging with his head down and looking about as white and bad as a person could look this side of the emergency room. We went to the top together.
All ended well. Not that dramatic a story in the course of human events, but it speaks of the Advent theme of "patience" only turned 180 degrees. We often speak of waiting in Advent. We have to have patience with Advent liturgies, because we sing all those minor Advent hymns, and the carols wait until Christmas (or at least the last Sunday in Advent). We have to wait to open presents. And we have patience in waiting for the Lord's coming, trusting ancient promises and watching for the smallest sign.
But we seldom hear of the patience of God in Advent. The usual waiting is ours in this season. But God is waiting as well. God bet the heavenly inheritance on us human beings. God started out on this adventure of creation with us, and God isn't going on to fulfillment without us, with no apologies to the "Left Behind" books, movies, or violent video games. God is waiting for us to catch up.
The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. Psalm 145: 8-9
God isn't late with the divine promise as some measure lateness. God is exercising restraint on account of you, holding back the End because God doesn't want anyone lost. God is giving everyone space and time to change.... So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace. Interpret our God's patient restraint for what it is: salvation. (II Peter 3: 9, 14-15; "The Message")
Of course God could complete the purposes God wills for creation. But in love God will not do so without the beloved human creation, and so God has sent us both companion and savior to carry a pack when we need it, but to let us take this walk on our own and to assure us that God is waiting, not far from the top and will celebrate when we push on through toward peace and justice and joy.
I wish for each of you the richest of joy in this season in which God waits for you. May Christmas strengthen you in every good and faithful hope, and may the coming New Year offer fresh possibilities for the gift of peace that God waits for us to discover and claim with justice.
Much joy and many blessings to each of you in this Christmastime and every good hope for peace in the coming year.
David S. Moyer