"...for which foul deed
The powers, delaying, not forgetting, have
Incensed the seas and shores, yea, all the creatures,
Against your peace."
The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 3
I rehearsed this scene with Mary Glen over Thanksgiving break. The Stanford Shakespeare Company is doing The Tempest for its spring quarter show and she is preparing for auditions this weekend. I haven't read the play before, so I loved hearing the story and reading through the scenes she rehearsed. But one small fragment seemed to leap off the page like an arrow to my soul, "The powers, delaying, not forgetting..."
I started this entry wanting to write about Advent on this first day of December, but I felt stuck. What did I really want to say? And then I remembered that line, "delaying, not forgetting.." and I realized that is what this is about. For how often have I felt forgotten when I was only delayed? How many times have I seen that the tempests which whipsawed me practically in two, were also the storms which moved me miles and miles closer to my destination?
The final chapter in the Old Testament is Malachi 3 which opens with this verse: "See, I will send my messenger......the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," and then there were only about 400 FREAKING YEARS OF SILENCE until that word came to pass. I don't know about you, but I can tell you that there have been waiting periods in my life that felt about that long.
We wait for healing, for relief from pain, for love, for success, for justice, for failure, for the other shoe to drop, for someone else to change their evil ways only to realize that it was we who had a hitch in our gitalong. On days when flossing and brushing seem more than we can bear, still we hold on...for change or the grace to endure until it arrives.
Today Matty opened an Advent calendar which has hung on various walls around the country for 22 years.
My father made it and gave it to me when we started our family. It is an exact replica of the one which hung on the wall of my parents' home my entire life, right down to the slightly taller first row which houses the same five too-tall inserts every year. Though I now have more than 24, our Advent calendar always begins in this way:
"Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace and good will toward men." In other words, at the beginning of our waiting, we look to the end, to the words spoken to those cold and dirty shepherds when they got the news that the world had been waiting 400 years to hear.
More than ten years ago we attended church in New York City at a place called All Angels. And one year at our Christmas Eve service, Colin Goode asked the congregation, What are you waiting for? There were many answers that night--a new job, hope, a place to live--all pretty much faceless in my memory now, save one. That night John Flannery, all of 8 or 9 years old stood up and took the microphone with a great and tearful passion and said, "I am waiting for my dad to be healed." His dad, Jack Flannery, a prince of a man if ever there was one, was not healed of his brain tumor in the way we all hoped he would be. He died on November 19, 2004 and John is now a freshman in college. And I cannot think of that moment, without remembering Hebrews 11:39/40: "Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours." (The Message)
And so, in the waning light of December, in a world which seems darker with each passing day, let us begin with the end in sight, scanning the horizon and waiting...anxiously, fearfully, with hope or with dread, but together--For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come.