We only have a few groceries in the cart, and not much time. The person ahead of us is telling the clerk their whole life story. We wait for a root canal – or a diagnosis. We sit in the waiting room, hands clenched to stop the shaking, hoping no-one we know will walk in and see our sweaty skin. Someone we love is coming from a trip. My family knows the longer we wait, the more they get to eat. I keep cooking and puttering between trips to check the driveway. The puttering is joy. And sometimes, we wait so long, that we forget that we are supposed to be waiting, and even for what we are wait.
The people around Mary waited for centuries for the promised Messiah. As they herded sheep, carried burdens to market, shaped clay into jars or baked bread, how could they know that the Promise was already among them? How could they know the womb of a teenager held the seed of their Messiah? Did they forget they were supposed to be waiting with joyful anticipation? Or even for whom they were waiting?
And Mary? Was she scared? Did she dream deep, longing dreams? An you see her sitting quietly in the pre-dawn, hands clasped over a thickening waistline, knowing she shelters the Hope-Of-The-World, forming in her teenage body. Walking to the well, she trembles a little. How will her community react when her growing belly cannot be disguised, she wonders? What is it like for her when she begins feeling the butterfly-wing quiver that announces new life and knows, before anyone sees that belly swelling, that the Son of Promise has begun to move?
We wait with fear, sometimes with frustration, even sometimes with anticipation and longing, for the future God is shaping. Jesus promised he would come again. But it has been so many years! Often, I suspect, we wait in forgetfulness, busy with the work and wonder and worry of our days. Is it possible that the future is already being formed in the pregnant Bride of Christ, his Church? On this day when we are reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, can we feel the butterfly wings of Hope?
(see NT Wright’s “Lent for Everyone – Year C” pg. 1)