James 5:7-11 7Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
During December we are going to contemplate three gifts we receive from God in the season of Advent. We begin with the gift of patience.
Ever heard that saying about Praying for Patience? Don’t do it because God will give you something to teach you patience! I’m not sure I really agree with that entirely, but I remember being relieved to find out that patience is considered a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is listed amongst love, joy, peace, kindness, and gentleness as a fruit of the spirit, which means it is an outward sign of our growth in faith. So, while some of us might find patience comes more naturally than others, it is comforting to know it is a thing that comes to us as a gift and our job is not finding it but cultivating it.
It might seem strange for us to talk about patience as a gift of Advent. After all, this time of year, patience runs thin and is often in short supply. But Advent is all about waiting; waiting for Christmas, for the birth of the Christ child, and for the return of Jesus who comes to make all things new. And waiting, to be of any benefit and not simply a burden to bear, needs patience. Advent is not meant to be a burden, but a good gift of God.
Waiting, however, is not something anyone wants to do. Hands up for anyone who would honestly say: ‘Oh Boy! I am so GLAD I had to wait in a long line at the grocery store!’ or ‘I am really looking forward to waiting at the doctor’s office, they are always running behind so I have a good long wait whenever I go.’
Who could blame us for not wanting to wait for anything? Our whole world is about instant results, fast service and transformation without time. We want it all and we want it now. We don’t have time to wait and we don’t have the patience for it, either.
Why? Why must we always be so rushed, so pushed, so impatient that we require everything NOW? Some might say that it is because there is so much to do in this world! Our lives are so full of obligations, opportunities, requirements, and so many demands on our time.
Patience. It seems like an old fashioned word, something that must have been easier to do in a less modern world. In the text above, James speaks about patience by using the example of a farmer patiently going through the growing seasons. It would have been easier for that farmer to wait and be patient since he wasn’t a part of our busy modern world. That is, our busy modern world that is full of all kinds of technological innovations that are, largely speaking, designed to give us more free time. Free time with which we can then do more things, cram in more stuff and responsibilities and activities and obligations. In fact, the more we have things, procedures, and technology to give us more free time, the faster we impatiently fill up that free time with obligations and stuff, making ourselves even more impatient and busier than before!
But if the truth be told, we might not actually be THAT busy ALL the time. Certainly there are times we genuinely are busy, even overwhelmed, and even for a long stretch of time. But we have somehow made “busy” into a virtue. It is good to be busy! In fact, you might not be really doing what you’re supposed to be if you’re not busy. It seems as if people are a bit suspicious of you if you are not always busy!
And patience, the first of the gifts of Advent we are looking at this month, is the enemy of busy.
Busy says: I must, now, right now, do it all so I can move on to the next thing!
Patience says: at this moment, all is well.
Busy says: I must hurry, I cannot wait for anything or waste time waiting on you because so many people are counting on ME!
Patience says: at this moment, all is well. Be still and know God
Busy says: If I stop, it will all fall apart. It will all crash down around me!
Patience says: at this moment, all is well. If even the mountains shake into the heart of the sea, all will be well, for God is here.
Busy says: If I stop being busy and doing stuff all the time, I will have to think about that thing or feel that feeling that I do not want to think or feel. It might hurt. I won’t know what to do. I will feel lost and alone. I will be lost and alone.
Patience says: at this moment, all is well. Nothing, neither life nor death nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.
Patience says: at this moment, all is well because there is never, ever any moment we are separated from the love of God because of Jesus.
Patience is a gift of Advent because it is a reminder that we do not have to make Busy into a virtue, we do not have to hide behind Busy or anything else that will steal away this moment because this moment and every other moment of time belongs to the One for whom we are patiently waiting: Jesus.
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.