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Advent reminds us that waiting is worthwhile

By Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

One of my favorite foods is Boston Market’s sweet potato soufflé served with brown butter sauce and topped with melted marshmallows. No matter what my entree might be, I always order that side dish to go along with the meal. This side dish has everything one could ask of a food item — wonderful aroma, great appearance and delicious taste. Sometimes I go to Boston Market with no thought about the entree whatsoever. What I really want is the sweet potato soufflé served with brown butter sauce and topped with melted marshmallows.

On one occasion when I ordered that side dish, I was told that it was not immediately available. The staff was preparing more of it back in the kitchen. The person behind the counter told me with some chagrin that it might take as long as 10 minutes for a fresh supply. She apologized for what she perceived to be an inconvenience. She asked whether I wanted to order a different side dish since the one I wanted was not ready at that time. As a matter of fact, many other customers who had been hoping to order that soufflé did decide to order a different side dish instead. Some customers decided to leave since what they wanted was a large order of that soufflé. However, the soufflé was what I came for. The soufflé was what I wanted. So, I told the person behind the counter that I would just wait until what I wanted was ready.

It seemed shocking to her that, in this fast-food world in which we live, a customer was willing to wait for an item that was not immediately available. Indeed, it seems strange these days to wait not only for a favorite food item but also for anything at all. In an age when we have come to expect answers, products, music, downloaded movies and electronic books within a matter of minutes — if not seconds — our willingness to simply wait for something that we want seems increasingly difficult to do.

The Advent lesson applies here. Advent is an annual reminder that waiting is an essential part of our lives. Not everything we want in life comes on demand. There are times in life when we simply must wait. We must wait while a fetus develops in the womb of its mother. We must wait while our financial investments reap the benefit of compound interest. We must wait for the votes to come in on election night. We must wait while a jury deliberates the facts of a legal case. “You can’t hurry love; you just have to wait,” sang 1960s Motown group The Supremes.

Advent reminds us that ancient Israel had to wait for 700 years before the Messiah came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Advent is also a reminder that Christians continue to wait for the second coming of Christ and the consummation of history as we know it. While we are waiting, Advent is also a reminder that we should be preparing for Christ’s coming. By working for justice, by committing ourselves to personal spiritual formation, and by remaining engaged with a community of faith, we do our part. But, in the end, the last move belongs to God; they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

Dr. Marvin A. McMickle is president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.