The advent of heaven
There is an advent that many people experience that in some ways is more excruciating than expectant, more halting than hopeful, more restless than restful and yet, at the same time, it is more strongly felt than any build up to Christmas they’ve ever experienced. It is the advent of heaven for the elderly and infirm.
After a long life has been lived, so many of the experiences they longed for when young are now in the past. The bodies that propelled them through life are now faltering. And the faith that sustained them and gave them hope has put them in what often feels like an endless holding pattern.
They long to see Jesus, but it seems that Jesus isn’t quite ready for them… yet. It is the “yet” that is so hard to live with, even though “yet” has always been a part of our life.
When we are kids, we want to do so many things but we’re not old enough, yet. When we are adolescents, we cannot wait to be adults. As adults, we can’t wait to find the perfect job, then get married, then we can’t wait to have kids, then retire and on and on. We vacillate between the now and the not yet of life’s milestones until all are crossed except the final one.
This last milestone, while being the most important one of them all, is for many, the most elusive.
Waiting is never easy. Everything from kids waiting for summer, to parents waiting for their children to be born, to farmers waiting for the rain, to waiting for that Amazon package. Big or small, whatever the occasion, waiting is never fun. And yet, waiting is a major part of life. We cannot escape it and we can’t speed it up. It seems that all we can do is endure it.
But that is not exactly the truth, nor is it the correct response in faith. God is a God that likes to take His time. Forty years in the desert, 50 years in exile, and I have no idea how much time passed from the first sin to God’s plan of salvation culminating in the resurrection of Jesus. It is quite possible that one of the lessons revealed in all this biblical waiting is that we need to get used to waiting.
The Church offers us the season of Advent so we can focus on the coming of Jesus incarnate and the second coming of Jesus. Implicit in the Advent celebrations is the truth that Jesus came to earth so we can go to heaven, our homecoming.
All of us are waiting for our entry into heaven, though most of us do not long for it. However, there are a significant number of people who are longing for it and all they can do is wait. This is the ultimate waiting.
If you are one of these people, I offer a simple prayer for you to say as often as needed:
Jesus, I love you; I am ready when you are.
If you know someone who is in this situation, I encourage you to wait with them as often as possible, even if all you do is listen to them complain. Having someone to wait with is so much better than waiting alone.
I also offer you this simple prayer to pray:
Jesus, comfort them while they wait, and prepare my heart for when you’re ready to bring them home.
I was once taught that the secret to joy is waiting. The longer the wait, the sweeter the coming, and nothing is sweeter than eternity with Jesus.