Last year, I was blown away by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical. I myself
resonate deeply with Aaron Burr, the reserved, by-the-book politician whose life parallels the
more outrageous Alexander Hamilton. Burr’s strategy is to “wait for it,” acting carefully and with
great precision. Although he often seems a step behind everyone else, he assures himself in one of
my favorite lines, “I’m not falling behind or running late / I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait!”
He is patient, waiting for the right moment…but his is not a passive waiting. He is alert, observing
and planning and anticipating, looking for signs of what is to come.
As I reflect on the season of Advent, I think about Burr’s posture of active waiting. During
Advent, we, too, wait – we wait for the coming of Jesus Christ. In this season, we remember the
longing and anticipation of our forbearers as they awaited the Messiah. They longed for the fulfillment
of the promised reality Isaiah talked about: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a
great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined…For a child has
been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and
there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7). Now
we, too, wait for Jesus to come again.
So what shall we do in the meantime? We wait. Yet, we do not wait as though we have no
hope, as though we are wasting our time or losing momentum. Rather, our waiting is weighty, significant,
pregnant with possibility. We tell the stories of what God has done, and we point out where
God is present now. We prepare for the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, all the while following the
stirrings of the Spirit in ways that lead to justice, mercy, and peace. We wait patiently, trusting that
God is somehow at work and will bring about what is good. We wait expectantly, anticipating the
joy and abundance that God has promised. We wait actively, following the stirrings of the Spirit to
join in the movement of God as true partners in the ongoing creative and redemptive work.
Henri Nouwen, a 20th century French priest and spiritual writer, wrote in his devotional Bread
for the Journey, “Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the
sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find
there the signs of the One we are waiting for…Waiting patiently always means paying attention to
what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.”
Let us not fall into the trap of standing still. May ours be an active waiting marked by baited
breath and excited anticipation of what God is stirring up.