Advent is a time of Waiting. Waiting and Watching.
Most people do not wait very well. Perhaps you know the feeling of waiting for your phone to charge? You’ve run out of battery, you’ve plugged the phone in and now there’s nothing to do but sit and wait? And even though it really only takes a matter of minutes (and even though it’s nothing more than a phone), you start to feel tense and anxious, wondering how long this could possibly take.
Most people don’t like to wait. We often get frustrated waiting on fast food, or waiting behind the slow car in the fast lane. We are always in a rush to get to the next place or the next thing.
This mindset often carries over into our spiritual lives with us rushing to the next big thing.
Just think about the wait for the Messiah.
In this well-known prophecy of the Messiah, given about 700 years before Jesus was born to Mary, the “child to be born”, who is also the “son to be given”, is called “Mighty God”, “Eternal Father”, and the one who rules over all; in other words, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”.
700 years passed before the prophecy of the Messiah would come to pass. But did the people understand the gift they were going to receive? Would the gift of the Messiah be received? Today, are we ready to receive the Gift of the Messiah?
For one cab driver, his decision to take a moment to slow down changed everything for one woman. This is a story of patience and brotherhood – a story of mankind. It's a story of small, random acts of kindness that have the power to affect people on a big scale.
A NYC Taxi driver wrote:
”I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift, I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her, 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.' 'Oh, you're such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'
'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly. 'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice. I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'. We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. 'How much do I owe you?’ she asked, reaching into her purse.
'Nothing,' I said.
'You have to make a living,' she answered.
'There are other passengers,' I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. 'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.' I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. “
Reading the story of the cab driver gave me the opportunity for a mental “reset”. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
As we wait during this season of Advent, we wait with expectant hearts, ready to celebrate the birth of the King of Kings and hearts ready to proclaim the arrival of a new day and a new order. Are we ready to reorder our lives to align with the Prince of Peace?
As we wait, what will we do? Take a moment and think about your life. Think about your daily grind, your routine, the things you do almost every day without giving thought to the consequences of even the smallest of gestures.
Think about the hundreds of people you pass, brush shoulders, or even push past. Think about the way you interact with people. It's weird to think, but you interact with hundreds of people on a daily basis and don't even realize it. These interactions are small moments, tiny, seemingly insignificant seconds of your life. They have no weight to them, no purpose, no real meaning, yet they have significant power. These small moments all add up to the bigger sum of your life, creating opportunities and experiences that are missed or abused by the hurried and impatient.
What if you took five minutes to slow down and appreciate the people and the interactions around you? Took a moment to notice the sorrow on one woman's face, or the pain in that man's eyes standing next to you in line waiting at the pharmacy? What could your tiny interaction mean to them? We spend our lives waiting for the next big event to happen in our lives, the next destination, usually unaware of the moments being created around us.
As we wait, we will celebrate the season with several “special” times of worship and music. You will want to make sure you are present for the Messiah Sing Along scheduled for Sunday, December 9. We will sing with an orchestral ensemble and lift our Hallelujahs as wait for the coming celebration of Christmas. Then on Christmas Eve we will gather for two great times of worship in the Sanctuary at 5 PM and 11 PM to wait for Holy celebration of Christ’s Birth.
See you in Worship as we wait together to celebrate the birth of the Christ, anew in our hearts and in our World.